Mumbai: Delays in the areas of communication/language, motor skills, problem-solving, or social and adaptive behavior are some of the developmental issues that are commonly seen in children. Paediatricians are witnessing a significant increase in developmental delays in children post-pandemic. The aim was to create awareness regarding developmental disorders in children and adolescents on the occasion of New Horizons Child Development Centre’s 20th Foundation Day. Around 500 children and parents receiving intervention at the Centre participated in the event along with eminent doctors, educationists, civil society members, and well-wishers.
The event was attended by Dr Y K Amdekar and the Chief Guest was Hon Member of Parliament, Mrs Supriya Sule (via video conference), Dr Upendra Kinjawadekar, Guest of Honour, President, Indian Academy of Paediatrics, Dr Bakul Parekh, Senior Paediatrician and Past President, IAP, Dr Rashid Merchant, Senior Paediatrician, and Mentor who runs a neuro-genetic clinic at New Horizons, Dr Anant Talaulicar, Mentor and Advisor at New Horizons, and Ex CMD India, Cummins Inc. In addition to felicitating the speakers, Lifetime achievement awards were given to Prof Dr Merchant for Pediatrics Prof Dr Anuradha Sovani for Psychology Prof Dr Jyothika Bijlani for Occupational Therapy.
Developmental delay is seen when the child lags behind their peers in one or more areas of emotional, mental, or physical growth. Cognitive delays affect the child’s intellectual functioning causing learning difficulties. This type of delay is seen in children detected with brain injury due to birth trauma or brain infection; and chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome and Fragile X. Delays in motor skills result from genetic conditions, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy. Children with neurobehavioral disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, often also have social, emotional, or behavioral delays. Such children will have issues in understanding social cues, communicating with others, and encountering emotional challenges.
If the child’s development is delayed or deviant, early intervention is key to helping the child progress in the early years.
Dr Samir Dalwai, Developmental Pediatrician and Director at New Horizons Child Development Center said, “Exposure to Television and screen time in children has increased during the lockdown. The total number of patients seen in our center post-pandemic (from 2021- 2022) is 2258. Though parents were at home, they were busy with work. So, screen time in children as well as social isolation increased drastically as children were not able to venture out of the house. The entire normal sense of human social life was lost. Anxiety and fear were rampant. Parents gave in to the child’s demands by allowing more screen time and there was no control over activities of daily loving. Post-pandemic, adults have resumed their routine as before and trying to compensate by working harder but children are still left in the lurch. Children who were below 2 years directly went to school at the age of 4-5 but were not adapted to the social situation in school whereas children who were above 5 years pre-pandemic have missed out on academics. These children are lacking behind academically and are under immense stress to cope. Thus, behavioral and emotional issues have worsened in children of all age groups post-pandemic. In addition, those children who already had mild developmental issues are suffering even more post-pandemic.”
Dr. Y.K Amdekar, Veteran Pediatrician and Past President of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics said, “It is our responsibility to take care of children. And we believe that the children will be fine. But parents play a big part in the development of children. We only provide guidance, but parents play an important role in children’s development. It is only because of the parents’ efforts that the children recover quickly.”
Mrs Supriya Sule, Hon Member of Parliament who was present through video conference said “I have seen New Horizons since its inception and have a branch running in our Pawar Public School at Bhandup since 2007. I have been an ardent advocate for people with special needs in Parliament and many campaigns at the grass root level for hearing impairment and autism. New Horizons has constantly innovated its best practices and I see them always a step ahead by trying to go the extra mile to serve children and their families.”
Ms Sandhya Kulkarni, Special Educator and Director, New Horizons added, “NH is one of the largest multi-disciplinary, comprehensive, and integrated child development centers in India which is two decades old. It offers developmental services under one roof through an interdisciplinary team headed by developmental pediatricians. Each child gets individual evaluation and intervention in a scientifically planned and documented manner.”
Dr Barkha Chawla, Developmental Pediatrician, New Horizons said, “We provide services for children with neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Specific Learning Disorder (SLD), Intellectual Disability, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy (CP), Speech and Language Disorder, Developmental Delays, and Behavioural Concerns. We wanted to spread the message to society and raise awareness regarding developmental delays in children.”
As the center completed 20 years, children with special needs, aided by the team at New Horizons, performed various cultural events like dances and a cultural walk with parents thereby proving the center’s motto “Every Child Can Do Better” if we move “From Label To Enable”.
Dr Upendra Kinjawadekar, President IAP said, “Child Development is one of the core aspects of child health and this has been impacted by environmental factors like nuclear families, gadget addiction, and over-emphasis on education. Developmental services need to individualise the intervention for every child for the child to do better.”