A couple is waiting impatiently for the arrival of their first child, expected in just over a month. However, in the 30th week of gestation, a very premature baby enters the world . After several weeks in the hospital, when the child is discharged, the medical services refer him and his family to the Early Care Unit.
A single mother, with marathon working hours and little social and family support, goes for a pediatrician’s check-up when her son turns 18 months old. The doctor checks that the child has not started to walk yet and that he can barely stand without support. Decides to refer them to the Early Childhood Center.
Some parents are concerned that their daughter, who is about to turn two, has not yet begun to speak . In addition, he seems not to be interested in his surroundings, he always entertains himself with the same things and hardly responds to signs of affection. The educators at the nursery school the girl attends recommend that they go to the Early Childhood Service.
In all three cases they are referred to the same service, but what do these young children have in common?
WHAT IS EARLY INTERVENTION?
Early Care is understood as the set of interventions, aimed at the child population of 0-6 years, the family and the environment, which aim to respond as soon as possible to the transitory or permanent needs that children with disorders in their development or that are at risk of suffering from them . This is the definition contained in the White Paper on Early Care, created by the State Federation of Associations of Early Care Professionals (GAT).
WHAT KIND OF PROFESSIONALS WILL THE THREE FAMILIES THAT WE HAVE GIVEN AS AN EXAMPLE AT THE BEGINNING MEET?
Early Care is based on disciplines such as Pediatrics, Neurology, Psychology, Psychiatry, Pedagogy, Physiotherapy or Linguistics. Interventions must consider the whole of the child and must be planned by a multidisciplinary team . A basic team must have at least a Psychologist, a Speech therapist and a Physiotherapist, although the ideal is to also have professionals such as Pediatricians, Neuropsychologists, Social Workers, Psychomotorists or Occupational Therapists, among others. Once the young children arrive together with their families, the pertinent evaluations will be carried out through the appropriate instruments to assess their development and establish specific treatments for each child.The objectives are to promote the maturation of all areas of development , promote their personal autonomy, guide and train families and integrate the child in their family, school and social environment.
WHY 0 TO 6 YEARS?
In these early years, early detection of possible developmental disorders is very important. Infant development of young children is a basic and rapid process.Developmental milestones appear sequentially. Babies begin to recognize their surroundings, respond to stimuli, discover their own body, move and move around. They also begin to use their resources to get what they need or want, they relate to others first through their actions and then through language. Their interests are changing, more and more complex things attract their attention and in the process of discovering the world they realize that there are people beyond their closest relatives. All areas of the child (language, cognition, social, motor or adaptive) are of equal importance to follow a correct development and object of intervention in the event of delays or developmental disorders.
The most common developmental disorders that professionals encounter at these ages are a wide variety of genetic syndromes or disorders such as autism spectrum , cognitive development , neurological, psychomotor or communication and language disorders. The cases of risk usually correspond to premature children or those belonging to families in social exclusion or very impoverished environments, which offer little stimulation to young children.
But, in addition to the child’s abilities, the influence of the environment in this first stage of life is fundamental. Therefore, prevention and action on the family and the environment is essential to promote good development, carry out early detection, prevent the appearance of disorders and favor parenting conditions, especially in cases of difficulty. Family therapy often takes a back seat and we focus only on the child. However, Early Care must also intervene with families , helping them to overcome the most difficult moments, such as receiving the diagnosis of their children and facing the situation, as well as intervening in the couple problems that frequently arise in these scenarios so complicated.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT SITUATION OF EARLY CARE IN SPAIN?
In the last twenty years there have been great advances in this field. Coordination between social, educational and health services is necessary for its proper functioning. This is a reality in most of our country, but there are important differences from one Autonomous Community to another.
The first difference occurs in something as basic as its nomenclature. For example, in communities such as Aragón or Madrid we will be talking about the CDIAT (Child Development and Early Attention Centers); in Andalusia they are known as CAIT (Early Child Care Centers) while in Asturias we will find the UAIT (Early Child Care Units). All of these centers will function differently although, in essence, their objective will be to comply with the basic principles of the discipline . Most of them will be general, that is, they will accommodate all types of cases, although we frequently find centers specialized in some disorders, such as visual, auditory, cases of infantile cerebral palsy, etc.
The majority are public or concerted ownership and, once again, depending on which Autonomous Community we are talking about, they will depend on the Departments of Health, Education or Social Welfare. In any case, as we say, coordination between services is essential . Due to the great existing demand and the frequent saturation of the service and the waiting lists, there are more and more Private Initiative Early Care centers throughout Spain.
When it comes to accessing them, we also observe differences. The referral can occur through health , educational, social services or by family initiative itself. In communities such as Asturias, for example, it can only be accessed through a pediatrician’s referral, while in Catalonia any of these access routes is possible.
The best thing is to consult with the pediatrician about the available options and to know what services the autonomous community in which one lives has available. Once the service is accessed, the Early Care team will do everything possible to promote the development of the child and support the families.