EARLY INTERVENTION For Better Learning
Mind Frames Integrated Learning Center offers Early Intervention, a system of coordinated services given to children with special needs. The hope is that if these services are provided early enough, they will address any delays in development so that the child will not need the services later on.
“We work on mild to severe developmental disabilities. It covers learning disabilities, mental retardation, Autism, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD),” volunteers Stephanie Lopez-Sy, Program and Training Director. Ideally, Early Intervention is done before the child turns five but in some cases, Mind Frames still accepts children of up to 10 years old.
Upon visiting the center, a child is assessed by Sy. “That assessment focuses on the child’s abilities, current functioning, and most importantly, the learning style. Every child is unique with very unique learning styles. They may have the same diagnosis of Autism, but their learning styles can be very, very different,” explains the Early Intervention Program Specialist.
Behavior management is Mind Frames’ strength. They believe in the behaviorist approach and in the mantra that “all behavior is a form of communication and can be changed.” “We analyze the functions of the child’s behavior, where is it coming from? It can be due to reinforcement by those around him, or sometimes there’s a sensory overload. Whatever it is, you have to identify. There are a lot of methods we work with on changing and manipulating behavior,” says Sy who holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education from the University of the Philippines. “We teach the children everything from processing information to the appropriate reaction, you model the appropriate response,” she describes.
An Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is prepared for every student. “It’s all one-on-one on certain levels but they also have to practice what they learned and apply it so we also test them and put them in small group classes,” she rationalizes.
Mind Frames builds the foundation of pre-requisites such as acquisition of basic language and learning skills as well as attending skills (eye contact, following simple commands). “For further intervention to be fruitful, beneficial, financially efficient and practical, the child must be equipped with the necessary skills that are needed for any meaningful learning. If the child is not able to process information, how can he learn to speak? So what we do is work on the processing first before turning him over to a speech therapist. A two-year-old who can’t establish eye contact or doesn’t have sitting skills shouldn’t be doing speech therapy right away,” she shares, reiterating the necessity in building foundation first. “Until the child is able to sustain attention, the child is able to process information that you tell them and understand, respond and comply, that’s the only time we do add-on interventions because we want to save on the cost also.”
Mind Frames roster of staff also includes speech therapists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. The program director synergizes their roles, monitors the student’s progress weekly, and reports the progress to the parents. “I conduct trainings for them to be not therapist-dependent,” points out Sy who meets with whoever spends the most time with the child. “I believe that it’s a partnership and if they’re not going to participate and work with us, it’s not going to work, they will just be wasting money and time if they don’t follow up at home, it won’t make sense,” she reasons. They can even go to the extent of visiting the home of the child and helping the parents set it up in a more structured way which is conducive to managing the behavior.
MORE THAN JUST A SCHOOL
Assistance in school placement is another service that Mind Frames extends to their clients. “It doesn’t stop with finding a school. We still work on coordinating with the school, we follow up on the progress of the child, how the child is coping. We also ask the teacher what the child would be needing to assist more in his pre-school or grade school life and we work on that at the center as well,” she guarantees.
Sy traveled to the US for certification programs in Applied Behavior Analysis, Treatment and Education of Autistic Children and Communication Handicap disorder (TEACCH) and Pictures Exchange Communication System (PECS). She took on a job there, teaching children with severe disabilities for over two years before coming back to Manila. She cascades what she has learned to her team of teachers with regular training sessions. “At the center, we work as a team. Helping children with special needs is not just a business for us, it is an advocacy,” she closes.