BABY EARLY GAINS INTERVENTION [BEGIN] PROGRAMME
An FASD diagnosis cannot usually be made until a child is around 8 years of age. However, a key factor in better life outcomes is early intervention to mitigate secondary disabilities. Streissguth, A and Kanter, J (eds.), 1997 in "The Challenge of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Overcoming Secondary Disabilities", Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press stated that secondary disabilities can be mitigated by protective factors such as a diagnosis before the age of 6 years.
In 2016 New Zealand adopted the newly developed Canadian diagnostic criteria for FASD. This included a special designation (but not a diagnosis) entitled: "At risk for neurodevelopmental disorder and FASD, associated with prenatal alcohol exposure". This designation does not require a child to have sentinel facial features but does require all three of the following to be identified:
- Confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure, and
- Some indiciation of neurodevelopmental disorder, but does not meet central nervous system (CNS) criteria required for a diagnosis of FASD with, or without, sentinel facial features, and
- A plausible explanation for lack of meeting CNS criteria such as an incomplete evaluation or the child being too young for adequate assesssment.
This new "designation" gives the opportunity for earlier interventions than age 8. The reality is, the earlier the interventions are put in place, the better!
BEACON's BEGIN Programme does just that! This Programme is for babies and toddlers from age 0 to 3 years.
A key component of this Programme is the inclusion of baby massage by a trained professional. Our Programme Co-ordinator teaches parents and caregivers the benefits and techniques of baby massage. Babies with an FASD or other neuro-disability are often fractious and hard to settle. They may also have trouble feeding. Baby massage works to improve:
- bonding and connections between parents/caregivers and baby
- brain and central nervous system development through better sensory development
- development of baby's touch, movement, and communication
- relief of gas, colic, reflux, constipation, growing pains, muscular tension, cramps, and teething discomfort
- stimulation of circulatory, digestive, and immune systems
- development of co-ordination, balance, learning, concentration, muscular development and growth
- sleep patterns
- muscle tone
- ability to self-calm
- behavioural states and reduce stress hormones
The Programme also includes identification of key areas of behavioural or learning concerns, dependent on the child's age. We then work with the parents/caregivers and whānau to put in place interventions and strategies to address these areas of concern.
If in doubt, get in early!
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