The arising issue of neurodevelopmental disorders has reached every locality even those far-off to economic progress. Thus making the situation worse in terms of its management and treatment because economic progress facilitates good standard of living catering the needs of every member of the community especially those individuals with disability not only physical in nature but also psychological.  This should be given appropriate action to be taken and proper consideration in terms of its nature and development. The Philippine government particularly the Department of Education has addressed the issue by providing a learning facility catering the needs of children with neurodevelopmental disorder under school age. The question is, how far we have gone through with the implementation of this special education program?

It is imperative to understand the nature of the disorder at the onset and proper management of appropriate treatment available in order to facilitate holistic child development.

What is the nature of a neurodevelopmental disorder? Developmental delay is the failure to achieve developmental skills that are appropriate for the age of the child (Benson, J. & Haith, M. 2009). Conditions that begin from childhood and have  major impact on social and cognitive functioning which involves serious deficits in social interaction and communication skills, and odd behaviors, skills, and activities are considered to be Neurodevelopmental Disorders (e.g. Autism Spectrum, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity and Intellectual Disability).(Whitbourne, S.K. & Halgin, H. 2013). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) states three (3) criteria for diagnosis of Neurodevelopmental Disorder.

“To receive the diagnosis, the individual must meet all three of these criteria. First includes deficits in the general intellectual disabilities that an intelligence test might measure including reasoning, problem- solving, judgment, ability to learn from experience, and learning in an academic context. Secondly it involves impaired functioning, relative to a person’s age and cultural group, in a variety of daily life activities. The third criterion relates to age of onset. Specifically, the disorder must begin prior to the age of 18”. (Whitbourne, S. & Halgin, R. 2013)

Statistics show that individuals having neurodevelopmental disorders are growing in population. In the world today, it is said that 1-2% of the world’s population is affected by intellectual disability. (Preikšaitienė E., et.al 2016). In the Philippines, according to the 2014 survey of the Department of Education (Helen Flores, Philippine Star, 2014), there are 5.49 million children with special needs, which reflects  13 percent of the total population of children in the country.

How do we cater Neurodevelopmental Disorder in the Locality? As of 2000, the Department of Education was able to establish a program catering the need of children with both physical and psychological dysfunctions. These children are accepted separately under a Special Education Program in order to facilitate learning and development. According to DepEd Order No. 11, s. 2000 each school division should provide at least one SpEd Centre to cater these children.

“There should be at least one SpEd Centre organized in every school division. The establishment of this Centre aims to provide access to basic education among children with special needs, namely: the gifted/talented, the mentally retarded, the visually impaired, the hearing impaired, the orthopedically handicapped, the learning disabled, the speech defectives, the children with behaviour problems, the autistic children and those with health problems through the formal system and other alternative delivery services in education.” (DepEd Order No. 11, s. 2000)

         

The predicament on the increasing population of children with special needs specifically intellectual disability posits three major considerations in the successful program management particularly:  (1) guidelines in the assessment of children with special needs (2) professional competency in proper case/treatment management and (3) organization of parental support group in order to facilitate holistic learning and development. Overlooking these considerations might lead to unsuccessful program implementation despite the availability of facility.

(1) Guidelines in Assessing Children.  In the clinical setting, diagnostic results serve as basis for proper intervention in order to achieve optimum progress (Benson, J. & Haith, M. 2009) Thus, proper assessment and diagnosis is an important part of facilitating learning and development among children with special needs. This will identify the specific disorder and to what extent it affects the child. 

The Department of education requires assessment and diagnosis of children under special education programs (DepEd Order No. 72, s. 2009). However, school records show that not all children who are enrolled under the Special Education program are properly diagnosed or assessed. This lack of understanding of the children’s condition might hinder them to receive appropriate intervention according to their psychological needs.

 

(2) Professional Competency. Aside from knowing the nature of disorder based from the diagnosis, proper approach to address each is also a crucial part of facilitating learning of children with neurodevelopmental disorder. Each disorder has different needs which require different intervention and approach to be facilitated properly (Gallagher, J. 2002). This implies that catering these children requires qualified educator to ensure learning progress.

The DepEd Order No. 53, s. 2008, states “the Bureau of Elementary Education (BEE) through the Special Education (SPED) Division regularly conducts training of teachers and administrators for children with special educational needs in order to provide them with access to formal education. “

This stipulated the provision for training basic education teachers and administrators on special education but does not specifically require a licensed professional like a developmental psychologist, to personally work hand in hand with trained teachers and facilitate assessment, learning and development of children with psychological needs in every locality.

(3) Parental support group. B.F. Skinner’s theory of behaviorism emphasized the importance of the environment, specifically social environment in the child’s development. This holds true for children with special needs, however unlike normal child development, children with neurodevelopmental disorder demand greater support due to their psychological incapacity. There are various studies claiming that having children with neurodevelopmental disorders can be stressful to the family members especially the parents (Floyd, F., 2007; Lloyd, T. & Hastings R. P., 2008; Mash et. al., 1990; Peer, J. & Hillman, S.; 2014). Thus, demand for support should not be limited only for children but also to their immediate environment. In the locality, there are existing support group for both the children and their parents. However, support varies per municipality, focuses more on children with physical disability and has limited finances. (Braza, 2016)

A support group in every locality where there are cases reflected should be organized and established in order to continue the learning development provided by the schools. A support group which will be guided on how to manage the disability and through concerted efforts provide consolidated resources for every child.

These careful considerations must be viewed and reflected in the assessment of the program in order to improve and to attain its goal of delivering effective learning to children of this group.

On the other hand, it is not the sole responsibility of the Department of Education to cater the needs in terms of developing holistic children with neurodevelopmental disorder but the entire nation’s thrust must be carefully planned and deliberated by tapping every agency which might help in the growth and progress of each child having the disorder. Thus a call to understand the needs of this group and to allocate planned resources for the proper implementation of the program is vital and will take its toll from here.

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