What pre-school children really need is individual attention

Visit any nursery or pre-school in the city, and chances are that you will be greeted by colourful walls populated by cartoon characters. The sad fact remains that attempts at creating a conducive environment for children in these places do not, at most times, go beyond these coloured walls.

It is a one-size-fits-all approach which drives a majority of pre-schools in the city, the numbers of which have increased manifold in the past decade. Child psychologists and experts in the field point to lack of awareness of a child’s psyche and lack of proper training for staff in understanding the needs of each child.

Early detection

“The current approach in teaching pre-school children is to do it as a group activity, where individual attention is lacking. This is flawed, as it is during this age that conditions such as autism or dyslexia should ideally be detected and treatment provided. An autistic child tends to be quietly absorbed in his own world. Teachers tend to sideline the quiet ones, and they get ignored,” T.V. Anilkumar, Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Medical College Hospital.

He says that the ‘Response to Treatment’ of conditions like dyslexia is most at young age, when it can even be reversed by effective interventions.

The teaching should depend less on writing or other traditional forms of pedagogy and more on stimuli to which children respond more.

“Ideally, the teaching should be through stories or plays, whereby the children force themselves to learn the letters or language to understand the story,” says Mr. Harikumar.

As for the ‘look’ of the classroom, experts say it is better to go in for a more sober look for the interiors, so as to avoid distractions for the children.

The ambience could be improved with gardens, toys, or even paintings.

The child psychiatry ward at the Medical College Hospital, which started functioning in January 2013, has over the past year seen increasing numbers of parents bringing in their children to cure ‘learning disabilities’ including conditions such as dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). At any time, around four are admitted at the ward and around 50 visit on Saturdays for outpatient consultations. With more awareness among the teachers and parents, children could get necessary help at an early stage, say doctors.