Early Intervention Centre

EARLY INTERVENTION SERVICE
 
The Early Intervention Programmes of Downside Up Charity Fund are designed to provide early education and social services to children with Down Syndrome from birth to 7 years. The programmes cover all aspects of children’s development, behaviour and social adaptation and foster their inclusion in everyday life, successful interaction with their peers and transition to preschools and schools. The programmes are formulated on methods which have demonstrated success in Russia and other countries.
 
The following programmes operate in Downside Up Early Intervention Centre:
 
HOME VISITING SERVICE
The programme of domiciliary guidance by early intervention specialists
 
Families with children from birth to 18 months years will receive regular visits in their homes from one of our early development specialists experienced in all areas of children’s early development, who will support parents in helping their children to develop and learn. During such visits, the specialist will assess the child’s progress by watching him/her play, determine the areas of development to be given a special attention, and give the parents helpful ideas for teaching the child through play and everyday living opportunities. In case of need, the home visiting specialist will advise the parents on what other early education specialists can be consulted, or invite her colleagues for a joint consultation.
 
She will also discuss with the parents the feeding and sleeping patterns and offer advice on how to best organise home environment so that parents can maximise the learning opportunities which occur through everyday living. At the end of each visit, the home visitor will provide parents with an individual development plan for the next few weeks. Such a plan is worked out in consultations with the parents and is adapted to the family’s way of life and specific requirements.
 
As a rule, during the first 18 months an early development specialist visits a family once a 4-8 weeks. Later the visits gradually become less frequent, and each family is provided with detailed advice and a full-length development plan for their child on a monthly basis. When a child is 18 months and begins to walk, the family is invited to attend an adaptation group sessions at our Centre.
 
ADAPTATION GROUP
A primary family socialisation programme
 
The adaptation group operates one morning per week at Downside Up Early Intervention Centre for children between the ages of 18 months and three years. Children participate in the group sessions together with their parents. Adaptation groups have been specially designed to foster the children’s transition from a home-based to centre-based environment, thus beginning the preparation for attending a more formal educational setting. The programme covers two school years.
 
Children take part in structured learning activities together with their parents who act as teachers’ assistance, while teachers organize the sessions in such a way that in the course of a session each child uses his or her development potential to a maximum. Activities focus on early understanding of language, practicing sign language, turn taking, learning self-care skills and participation in group activity, and foster communication, speech and cognitive skills and sensory-motor development. In the intervals between group sessions at the Centre parents can continue some of such learning activities at home.
 
In addition to teaching experience, this programme gives parents an opportunity to get together, exchange experience, opinions and concerns, and to obtain specialists’ advice on their children’s upbringing and development. A child psychologist who participates in the adaptation group sessions, can discuss with parents their child’s behavior and communication with his peers and adults and give helpful advice.
 
When a child is two, home visits discontinue and a family is offered to attend individual training sessions/consultations at the Centre. The timetable is made in such a way that each family whose child attends the adaptation group, can meet with an early education specialist once in 45 days or two months in order to get advice and receive an individual learning programme based on the child’s specific needs and abilities.
 
Parents of new born babies with Down syndrome are in urgent need of reliable information on how to secure favourable environment for the child’s nursing and development, and who to turn to for help or advice. On the other hand, there are many cases when pre-school specialists are willing to work with kids affected by Down syndrome, but have insufficient knowledge of their development characteristics and are in need guidance in teaching methods. To meet these needs, Downside Up Early Intervention Centre publishes information booklets and manuals dealing with development and education of children with Down syndrome, and translates specialized literature on the same subject published abroad. Such information booklets and specialized manuals for our target audience are distributed free of charge.
 
Each new family is provided with an “initial information package” containing information brochures and brief methodological guidelines for parents, which explain in simple terms the nature and consequences of Down syndrome and how nursing and teaching of kids with Down syndrome can be organised at home. The families may receive such information packages by mail or in person, when they visit our Centre.
 
PRE-SCHOOL GROUP
At the age of 3 – 3.5 years “graduates” of the adaptation group can join a pre-school group
 
The programme for this group is worked out jointly by specialists in cognitive, sensomotor and emotional development and speech therapists with account of skills and abilities that kids have acquired in the first three years of their lives. The programme is focused on further development of specific areas of development, such as motor, communication, speech, cognitive and life skills. Children attend group sessions by themselves and learn to act unaided by parents. These lessons are tailored for individual needs of each child, and provide the kids with an opportunity to consolidate their skills effectively in a naturalistic play setting. Learning through play is considered to be very important, especially in the development of speech and language, as instruction in non-naturalistic contexts has been found not to maintain, nor to generalise the contexts of the "real world".
 
While the children are at the play session, the parents may attend a parent support group session run by our psychologist/family support coordinator, and discuss their concerns. At the end of each session the teachers brief parents on their children’s performance, answer questions and advise on the action plan at home until the next class.
 
Downside Up Early Intervention Centre currently operates two pre-school groups for children aged 3-4 years and 4-5 years. By way of experiment, two more groups were organized in 2008 for children aged 6-7 years. They are attended by the kids who have participated in our programmes since birth.
 
CENTRE-BASED INDIVIDUAL CONSULTATIONS
 
More intensive individual support is offered from the age of three years in specific areas of development, such as speech and language, fine and gross motor, socio-emotional and cognitive development. For this purpose individual consultations are introduced into the schedule. Such consultations provide parents with knowledge and skills enabling them to continue learning at home. It is important to note that, while focusing on a child’s specific area of development, each individual session fosters other spheres as well. For example, an individual physiotherapy session also stimulates speech, while a speech therapy session and activities aimed at cognitive development foster motor skills, etc. Individual consultations are tailored for each child’s specific needs and are held once a month or every three weeks.
 
Skills which the child begins to master at the centre-based consultations must be consolidated in a play setting in the familiar home atmosphere. The specialist’s task is to examine the child, determine development priorities and advise parents on what is to be done at home in the time between consultations. The consultations offer a perfect opportunity for parents and specialists to work out a joint development strategy for the child.
  
Individual consultations on social-emotional development
 
Every now and then parents encounter difficulties traditionally known as “behavior problems”. A child is screaming, restive, unmanageable, refuses to do what he is told…How does one act in such a situation? What does one do to establish a contact with the child? These issues need to be discussed with a specialist before the problems snowball. 
 
Individual sessions with educational psychologists/specialists in socio-emotional development focus on the establishment of a positive and viable contact between parents and a child, and teach children to communicate, agree, and interact both verbally and nonverbally. The sessions are in the form of play therapy. A child learns basics of an action game and is taught to control his/her emotions. The sessions also foster motor development.
 
Individual speech therapy consultations
 
The primary aim of these sessions is speech development: the expansion of passive vocabulary (understanding of speech) and accumulation of active vocabulary; and the formation of the correct pronunciation habits.
 
Upon examining a child, a speech therapist works out an individual programme in tune with his/her speech skills and mentality, and explains to the parents in detail how they should work on the child’s articulation and speech at home, and how to best make such speech lessons an integral part of the daily round.
 
Each child attending Downside Up Early Intervention Centre programmes is entitled to such a consultation once a month. However, parents should be aware that individual speech therapy consultations made available by Downside Up are not what they call “regular speech therapy lessons”. The purpose of our consultations is to work out an individual training “strategy” and identify training guidelines and methods that suit the child best. Such consultations call for systematic routine work at home.
 
Individual consultations on cognitive development
 
These lessons will help parents to identify games and assignments that foster memory, attention logical thinking, and classification and construction skills. They will learn how to best teach their child to count, or to identify items by form, colour and size.
 
The lessons are structured with account of Down syndrome development specifics and each child’s individual nature. In the course of such lesson a specialist makes notes of each child’s progress in cognitive development and identifies learning difficulties. She discusses the child’s performance with the parents and works out a learning plan and recommendations how to best organize teaching process at home. Families with children attending Downside Up group sessions are entitled to have an individual cognitive development lesson once a month.
  
Consultations for families living in other Russian regions and CIS
 
At its early days Downside Up was established by its trustees as a Russian charitable fund for children with Down syndrome based in Moscow and Moscow region. However, we soon began to receive requests for professional aid from other cities of Russia and former Soviet republics. As the amount of such calls for help grew, we decided to set up a consultation service for families from further a-field.
 
Families having children with Down syndrome aged from birth to 7 are offered two consultations a year. The consultations are provided by previous appointment at Downside Up Early Intervention Centre. If a child is under 3 years, the family is advised by an early development specialist. Families with children after three are consulted by a board of specialists from the Centre. After a child’s development level is assessed and following a detailed discussion of parents’ question, an individual home learning programme is worked out and mailed to the parents. The programme is for a specified time, and the family can work on it at home or ask for help from a local early development specialist. After the programme is fulfilled, the family may visit the Centre again at the agreed time and receive a new home learning programme. This scheme operates until the child is 7.
 
To make an appointment please call at +7 (499) 367 1000. There is a waiting list, so we would recommend making an appointment at least 5-6 months ahead of the visit.
 
Psychological support groups for families
 
Downside Up regards family support as an integral part of our work, and we believe that it is necessary to ensure the success of our programmes. Bringing up a child with special needs can be difficult, and we aim to support parents throughout their children’s early development. Downside Up Early Intervention Centre operates Family Support Service headed by a Family Support Coordinator. When parents contact the Centre for the first time, they are offered support in the form of a personal meeting or a telephone conference with a psychologist who will discuss with them their child’s development and the family’s specific needs, and provide advice on high priority issues relating to psychological, social and legal aspects of raising children with Down syndrome. At a mother’s request, she can be visited by a psychologist at a maternity home. Our experience shows that a major theme for initial discussions is a child’s socialisation and inclusion perspective and ways to prepare him/her for independent life in the future. Following the initial meeting, we support parents by way of counselling and psychological support and organise regular seminars for parents.
 
Young babies’ parents are invited to a monthly Sunday meeting at the Centre where they can meet other families whose children participate in Downside Up programmes, and discuss matters of concern.
 
On Saturdays we hold joint parent-children sessions (“groups”) for families with kids aged 5 months to 3 years. In a safe and friendly atmosphere of these meetings children meet and mix with their peers and adults other then their parents. They learn how to establish contacts, practice their communication and imitation skills and satisfy their curiosity, while their parents have an opportunity to see how the kids perform outside home, to exchange experience with other families, or have a discussion with a psychologist.
 
Parents of older children also regularly meet for discussions and exchange of experience while their children are attending pre-school groups.
 
If a family needs individual counselling, they will be either offered advice by a local psychologist from the Centre, or provided with the information about what type of psychological support they can receive elsewhere. If the family finds the above two options unacceptable for whatever reason (strong anxiety, fear, lack of faith), a psychological service specialist may visit them at home.
 
Informational family support
 
In Russia literature on the subject of Down syndrome and specifics of development and teaching methods for children with Down syndrome is scarce, therefore dissemination of specialized literature for parents, education and medical specialists, social workers and general public is one of the key areas of Downside Up work.
 
Parents of new born babies with Down syndrome are in urgent need of reliable information on how to secure favourable environment for the child’s nursing and development, and who to turn to for help or advice. On the other hand, there are many cases when pre-school specialists are willing to work with kids affected by Down syndrome, but have insufficient knowledge of their development characteristics and are in need guidance in teaching methods. To meet these needs, Downside Up Early Intervention Centre publishes information booklets and manuals dealing with development and education of children with Down syndrome, and translates specialized literature on the same subject published abroad. Such information booklets and specialized manuals for our target audience are distributed free of charge.
 
Each new family is provided with an “initial information package” containing information brochures and brief methodological guidelines for parents, which explain in simple terms the nature and consequences of Down syndrome and how nursing and teaching of kids with Down syndrome can be organised at home. The families may receive such information packages by mail or in person, when they visit our Centre.