Podcast #2: Taking the First Steps: Consultations & Assessments for Your Child’s Development

In this heartfelt episode, we sit down with Manasa, a mother who embarked on a transformative journey when she discovered her son had developmental delays. Join us as Manasa shares her story, from the initial struggles and fears to finding the right support and witnessing her son’s remarkable progress. This episode offers a raw and honest look at the challenges and rewards of early intervention, providing insights and inspiration for parents who may be facing similar situations. Discover the power of a mother’s love, the importance of self-care, and the incredible impact that timely intervention can have on a child’s life.

Introduction

Madhvi: Welcome to the Ananya Child Development Center podcast. I’m Madhvi, and today we are doing something a bit different. With me is Manasa, a parent whose son is currently receiving developmental therapy or early intervention at Ananya. In this episode, we will hear from Manasa herself. She’ll share her experiences, the initial struggles, the learning curve, and how therapy at Ananya is making a difference in her son’s life.

It’s a straightforward look at what happens behind the therapy doors – the progress, the day-to-day changes, and what it feels like from a parent’s perspective. So, let’s dive in.

Discovering Developmental Delays

Madhvi: Thank you so much, Manasa, for coming today. My last podcast I shared with a lot of moms and they came back to me with lots of requests. They asked, “Ma’am, can you do this? Can you do that?” So, I think one of the most important topics that came to me as a request was how do I find out that my child has a developmental delay? And how do I find the right person or the right center to help me? What is it that other moms go through when this happens and how do we cope with it?

So today, let’s find out how you have gone through this journey, from the discovery of finding out that your child has a developmental delay and then how did you take it forward? Can you share your experience with us?

Manasa: Just a bit of background – I’ve got two kids. One of them is now six and the second one is three. For the second kid, he was born during the COVID lockdown, because of which his communication and exposure to the outside world was very minimal. All he used to see was me, my husband, and his elder brother. We used to talk to him, but maybe not as much as we realized later that we should have. Also, because he was in lockdown for close to one year, we did allow a little bit of screen time, which we realized later was wrong.

Manasa: After coming back to India when he was 14 to 15 months old, we observed that he had social anxiety. He hated going to public places or anywhere outside his comfort zone. Even talking to my own parents was difficult for him because he never had that exposure. He never went through the mental phase of realizing there are people and that he has to live amongst lots of people, not just his mom and dad.

Manasa: We took him to the pediatrician for his immunization, and she called out “Viraj, Viraj,” but he did not look back or respond. We did not realize that was a problem because we thought he would slowly respond as he was happy playing and never had any issues. He used to ask when he was hungry or sleepy. So we thought he was fine.

Manasa: The pediatrician told me that my son was not responding to his name at 18 months, which he should have done by the time he was one year old. That’s when a little worry started in us. She also mentioned that she was not saying my son has a problem, but suggested getting him assessed just to identify if there were any issues. She said we have nothing to lose – if the assessment shows no problem, we just lose a little money and time. But what if he does have a problem?

Manasa: That’s when my husband and I thought about the possibility of our son having a problem. If we didn’t respond to the doctor’s suggestion to get an assessment, we might be losing valuable time. The doctor suggested three to four different therapy centers. We did a bit of research, found out about Ananya and a couple of others, and somehow chose Ananya after going through reviews and speaking with people.

The Initial Struggles and Acceptance

Manasa: We were not sure about Ananya either. We came for an assessment, and my kid was crying terribly because Ananya was out of his comfort zone. He absolutely did not cooperate during the whole assessment.

Manasa: When the pediatrician told me that my son might have a problem, I stupidly Googled and found information about signs of autism. There was so much knowledge online. I’ve stopped Googling since then. Initially, I was in denial that my son has a developmental delay. I thought, “No way, why my child? What wrong did I do? I absolutely nourished him the same way I did with my elder one.”

Manasa: I was in a depressive phase as well. I hardly slept for 15-20 days at night. I used to just sleep, wake up, and cry, thinking “Why my son?” But I didn’t even start getting help at that point. I was just on the path of scheduling an assessment. I had overthought a lot, considering his five-year journey, ten years ahead. I wondered what if his developmental delay stays for his whole life. This added to my worries and made things worse.

Manasa: I didn’t speak with lots of other people either because I knew most of them wouldn’t understand or they would just ignore it, saying he doesn’t have any problem. I did my research, came to Ananya, got the assessment done, and that’s when they told me that he might have a high risk of falling into the autistic spectrum disorder. That was another big shock.

Manasa: At the back of my mind, I kind of knew that maybe if these developmental delays are not addressed, they might turn into something bad, but I didn’t want to acknowledge the word “autism.” The word still makes me worry a bit. But after the assessment, we decided to go ahead with therapies. They explained how therapy sessions work and what they do.

Misconceptions About Therapy

Manasa: There is another misconception about therapies. People say, “Oh my God, you’re sending him to therapies. They’re so bad.” No, therapies are not something from the outside world. They are just playful activities for the kids. Other than playing and the kids enjoying them, they are actually concentrating on tuning your child’s brain, getting him accustomed to the world, how he has a whole world to live in, and how he can make himself comfortable with people and surroundings.

Manasa: Whichever area of his brain or his body is not accepting all these worldly things, these therapies will actually help us target those particular areas by just playing. My son literally comes here and plays. He plays for however many sessions I ask him to play for. Honestly, he only cried for the first three or four days because this was a new place for him, out of his comfort zone. But just in a week, he adjusted. To date, he has never cried to come here because this was not a therapy zone for him. It is just like another school, another Montessori school, another playschool where he comes, plays, does so many activities, and does playful things.

Manasa: Because I am here in this Ananya Center, I also meet many other moms. When we as moms come to know that our child has some delay, some slight disorder, or something, the very first thing that we do is think, “Oh, my God. Why my child? My whole world is shaky. There is nothing left. What will my child do? How will I live? How will I face society? What will society brand my child as?” We have all these things going on in our minds, and that is what leads us to depression.

Help Your Child Thrive

Coping with Depression and Seeking Support

Manasa: The depression takes a toll on us. Trust me, it was difficult for me in the initial days to even wake up from bed because I was so depressed. If I found it so difficult to even wake up, how would I be able to take care of my son when he actually needs his mom the most? He is in a phase where he wants that extra attention and extra care.

Manasa: That phase of depression and denial was tough. What could we do? Let’s accept it. Yes, this is my child. He has this delay or he has this disorder. Let me take care of myself and address my child’s delays. Let me get some early interventions. It doesn’t matter if he is one and a half years old. I did not want to wait for him until he turned three or four. I am losing time. What if after three or four years, nothing changes? What if he’s still the same? But if I could get him into therapies, and if they can help me tune my child to his best, why not give it a try? Why should I even wait? What am I losing? I’m losing money, but that’s fine. We can earn it later. Yes, it’s not easy to earn money, I understand. You might be thinking it’s easier said than done. But still, our children are the most precious, and that’s where we come from. Let’s get him the help.

Also, getting help is not enough. How do you decide what is the right help? There are so many options, so many centers.

Madhvi: I’ll just interrupt you here. We’ll get to how to find the right help for the child. I just want to know, was everybody on board at your home that you will start early intervention, or were you the only one who was convinced about early intervention?

Manasa: I was the only one because people are of the opinion that he’s just one and a half years old. You can train him. You can address those problems as a mother and father. Let’s do it. No, but I am not trained. I don’t understand the problem as deeply as these therapy centers or Ananya understands, right? So I was the only one who fought and said, “I am taking him to therapy. Give me three to six months. If you really think that you have not seen any improvement in him during this time where he is going to therapy, okay, I’ll listen to whatever you say. Let’s try something else.” And that’s where I’m happy that I was stubborn about this.

Celebrating Small Victories

Manasa: As soon as we started therapy, initially we started with one session and then increased to two sessions. Within a couple of months, Viraj started responding to his name. He started identifying people. He started talking. I was so happy. Even small celebrations helped with all my depression, denial, and acceptance. I was not overthinking. I stopped overthinking. I was just taking it day by day.

Manasa: After three months, when he just responded to his name, we randomly called, “Viraj, Viraj,” and he responded. I was so happy that he responded to his name. But then after a few days, he stopped. I was like, “Oh no, it stopped.” I came running to Madhvi, saying, “Mom, mom, mom, he was responding. Why is he not responding again now? Is he going back?”

Manasa: So, therapy is not like a computer where you tune them and it’s done. He also has his moods, ups and downs, and swings. Sometimes he might not have any problem, but he just might not want to respond. These are all things to consider.

Manasa: Yes, not everybody was positive about the therapy initially. But after four to five months of Viraj starting therapy, people started noticing changes in him. And then the support, which I did not have earlier for sending him to therapy, everybody agreed and left it to me. They said, “Okay, we will leave it to you. You are taking better decisions by taking him to therapy, choosing what sessions, whatever it is.” So it was me and Viraj. We went through this whole journey, and I’m so happy with where Viraj is now. Trust me, moms, if you’re listening to this, Viraj has done awesome. He has not fallen into the spectrum yet. He has come out of whatever spectrum he was in. He’s just awesome. I’m just happy to see where Ananya has actually taken my son.

Self-Care for Moms

Madhvi: So let me ask you one more question. After three to four months or six months, you could see leaps and bounds of improvement in Viraj. What else did you do for yourself? Because you were helping Viraj – I mean, Ananya was helping Viraj and we were taking care of Viraj. Of course, you were taking care of Viraj at home. But you were going through this phase of depression. So how did you help yourself? What else helped you as a human being, as a mom, as a person?

Manasa: Yes, the very first thing was that I also took professional help because I didn’t want to go down this hole of depression and not come back again. The very good things which I have done were starting walking, yoga – something for our physical health, which will also internally boost mental health.

Madhvi: When did you do that?

Manasa: So when Viraj started at Ananya, we used to have this 45 minutes to one and a half hours of time during his sessions. While Viraj was seeking therapy upstairs, I was seeking therapy downstairs by walking around. We also used to do a small aerobics session of 15-20 minutes. We are a group of moms as well, helping each other through our depression phase or our low phase. When we form this group, talk to each other, and do things like walking together and working out together, it really helps us a lot. It’s really like therapy for moms.

Manasa: If we can take care of ourselves and be at our best, our kids will nourish as well. The happy vibes from us moms go to the kids. When we are angry, we shout at kids, but when we are happy, we don’t really do that. So the better our mental health is, the better it is for our children. Yoga, walking, and everything else – while Viraj was doing therapy upstairs, I was doing it here around Ananya, walking around for many hours.

Madhvi: Yeah, I see you wearing your sports clothes and coming along with your bunch of other moms who used to come at the same time. I see you guys walking around. I also saw you doing aerobics outside my room.

Manasa: Yes, we had our YouTube videos and then we were doing it. It was so good. I used to look forward to the sounds and noise. Usually, I like the place to be quiet, and then I was like, why is there so much commotion at 6 o’clock in Ananya? Then people told me, “Ma’am, they do aerobics here.” So I was like, “Oh, then I want this commotion. It’s a good commotion. I want the noise happening here.”

Manasa: I don’t know who started the whole thing, but you started it. Amazing. So other moms who were sitting sad and worried, not knowing what to do during the one and a half hours, they all started having like “me time.”

Manasa: We started with a couple of people, like you said. It was just me and a couple of other mothers. But then when they saw us walking together and working out, we became a group of five or six very soon. And then we started doing things together. It was also de-stressing us from the day. Every day we go through so many things. We wake up, deal with our kids, our work if we have any, cooking, and everything else. We keep running around. Those one and a half hours which we had with our mom’s group doing aerobics, walking, or sometimes just sitting, venting out, and chit-chatting – it was kind of a de-stresser. Lots of laughs which we miss throughout the day. So those few hours when our kids are having therapies upstairs, we de-stressed ourselves with all our laughs. It was very fun.

Madhvi: And also I felt that since all of you, including me, are going through the same journey, I don’t have to hide anything from you. I don’t have to justify why I’m coming here or whatever. It’s so relaxing that I’m in an environment where there is absolutely no judgment. All the moms are going through a similar journey, if not identical, but something similar. And we are helping each other. We relate to each other a lot.

Manasa: That is the main thing, I guess. When people come to therapies or when they’re going through a different situation than normal, we kind of seek relatability. We want someone to understand what we are going through. If we go outside to the world and say, “Oh, this is what is happening,” they might say, “You’re just talking nonsense. There is nothing like that. Why are you even stressing? He’s just one and a half years old. Don’t do that.” But here we can relate to each other. We understand each other’s problems. So that was the main thing where we all grouped together, de-stressed, and did stuff together.

Finding the Right Therapy Center

 

Madhvi Adhimulam: So coming back to how did you choose the right therapy center for your child? Did somebody refer you to us, or how did you even find us?

Manasa: The pediatrician who actually identified that Viraj should be assessed referred Ananya and a couple more to me. She said she doesn’t really attend, but from the parents who come to her and whose children are seeking therapy, they give her a few names, and that’s where Ananya stood out for her. But of course, being skeptical, we also did our research. We Googled, found reviews, and spoke with a few people, very few people, because not everybody had awareness of this Ananya center or many other centers.

Manasa: So then I personally thought, because it was my first step into therapy, let me give it a try. And the other thing which really made me choose Ananya was you, Madhvi, because you have been through the same journey. A mom who has seen all the ups and downs of life, a mom who has taken care of that special child who is really very special to her now, would in no way take advantage of the parents who come to her for help or treat this just as another source of financial income.

Manasa: Even in the very first few chats which we had where I was crying and speaking all my heart out, I could see that you really truly care about us parents and the kids. You didn’t just say, “Oh no, you have to come pay this much money,” but you gave me the assessment and said, “This is what I suggest. It’s up to you. If you seek early intervention, it’s good. If you want a few days, it’s up to you, but this is just a solution.” You never forced us. So all these things, not every other center does that.

Manasa: I’ve spoken with moms who have gone to other centers and there they were like, “You pay three years of fee, we will give you five years of therapy.” I don’t understand how they can ask for payment upfront when they have not even assessed the child. They do not know how long a child will take. It’s impossible for anyone to say how long a child would need therapy. Somebody might be finished in a year or two. Somebody might take 10 years.

Manasa: Lots of centers have financial income as their source, which is what they’re doing as therapies. But I really liked it here because you have been through the journey. You guys are true to what you do. And Viraj being what he is today is a proof and example. You can make Viraj your brand ambassador for Ananya Center. He is a proof and example that you do it heartfully, carefully for the kids. You only care about therapies and doing right by the kids. And I’m not exaggerating. This is exactly what I felt. And that’s why I have blindly followed whatever you asked me to do with the sessions or the therapies, and increased the number of sessions.

Manasa: I really would like to thank you a lot from the bottom of my heart. Viraj is here because there is Ananya and because you took care of him so well.

Finding the Right School

Madhvi Adhimulam: Yeah, I remember you came and asked me which school you should send Viraj to. I won’t mention the school’s name on the podcast, but I’ve been to this school that Viraj is going to now, and I like the school. I like the environment more than any curriculum. I didn’t really bother about that, but I really remember the way the school was designed, the way the play areas were, the way children were allowed to play freely without too much academic pressure. I liked it. So I thought maybe Viraj will thrive in this school. And then I referred you to that school, and now you like it too. That is one other thing I should thank you a lot for.

Manasa: And you know, after you referred me to that school and I’ve seen Viraj growing, I’ve referred so many other moms, saying “Go to that school, go to that school.”

The school which you mentioned, they are similar to Ananya. They’re not like typical schools that say, “Okay, you’ve got a book. Okay, write ABC. Okay, write 1, 2, 3. Okay, done. You have come to a playschool. Okay, take these toys, play, and let the kid go.” They actually understand each and every kid. They design the curriculum and activities based on what the child needs. I have seen very minimal schools who actually do this based on what the child needs. This particular school is child-centric. Other schools, most of them which I’ve seen and also the schools which I’ve been to, are process-centric. They have a process set for the school, and they implement that process, they force that process.

Manasa: But here, they only focus on child development. Every child is unique. They really have a curriculum for every child, and everybody in this school knows every other child. They concentrate on sensory development, fine motor skills. They make them carry a plate. They check whether they’re doing it or not. They do small puzzles. They do wind up, clean up, everything. They have all these materials and environments set up in such a different manner. They know what a toddler can do, what are the activities a toddler up to three years can do, and they absolutely have that environment set up like that.

Manasa: Next, they have the primary environment, which is for three to six years. It’s all material-based learning. The kids interact with materials that are age-appropriate and designed in such a way that they’re good for the child’s development. They align with the child’s development.

Personal Growth and Transformation

Manasa: So school is taken care of, development is taken care of. You are taken care of because all this is working fine. I’m sure your husband is taking care of you too.

Madhvi: Yes, he is. And I saw you got a job. You got yourself a job. I remember when you came, you were not working. So that was bothering you too. In the last eight months, not even one year, I’ve seen you evolve as a person, as a mom, as a professional, in all aspects of you. So if you can do it, why can’t other moms do it?

Madhvi: I wanted you to share your story today with other moms so they can hear that if Manasa can do it, why can’t they? Because most of the moms who come here are going through a similar journey as you. Either one parent is convinced, rarely are both parents convinced about starting early intervention. Usually one parent is convinced, or in-laws are totally against it, or extended family is totally against it. So you feel all alone. You feel miserable as to how to convince them.

Madhvi: You took the bold step of getting intervention for Viraj and it worked. Imagine what would have happened if you had come again after one year and Viraj had still not improved or his developmental issues had worsened. I think this one year is a golden year of his life. You got Viraj back, completely back to where he should be. And this is what we wanted to share today with moms – finding the right help.

Madhvi: I think we’ll do another episode with you. We’ll definitely delve deeper into how you chose therapies, what therapy you picked over the other, and how we made those decisions. Let’s do another episode again. I think we are done with our time for today. Do you want to conclude?

Closing thoughts

Manasa: Because Viraj has gone through this school and these therapies and early interventions, what made me extremely happy was that every teacher in his school was so impressed with Viraj’s development and growth. Everybody has now told me that he is performing beyond his age, and they have actually moved him from one academic year to the next, even before the academic year finished, because they said Viraj has mastered everything that was planned for him.

Manasa: What more would a parent want? Imagine if I was not coming for early intervention. Imagine I was just having Viraj at home with me, trying some Google things or something. I think finding the right help, going to the best professionals who have actually studied it, who know how to take the kids forward if they are a little delayed or if they have any spectrum, has really helped me. And I would request all the moms to please take the step.

Manasa: Fight with the world, nothing matters other than your child. If your family is against it, let go. You can leave them and get your child to therapy. After four months, they’ll be very happy with the decision you took. Maybe not four months, six months or one year. It’s our battle. It’s our child’s battle. Our child, because we have nurtured them for so many months and we have given birth to them, they are really special to us. Let’s take care of ourselves, our children, and let’s just be happy.

Manasa: The main thing which also worked for me was just taking it day by day, not overthinking about the future. Just let the day go as it is. If it’s going well, good. If it’s not going well, let’s see what we can do tomorrow to make it better. And let’s work on that. That’s what helped.

Madhvi: Thank you so much, Manasa. It means a lot that you agreed to speak with me today because no matter how much I tell, because I’ve gone through this journey almost 20 to 23 years ago, you are going through it right now as we are talking. So when you talk, I think a lot of younger moms will connect with you better. I’m sure I’ve gone through the same. Only the time has changed, but the challenges you mentioned were similar. So thank you so much. I hope moms listen to this and get inspired and start getting help for their children.

Manasa: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. Thanks for allowing me to express myself. And yes, please moms, help yourselves and your kids.

Conclusion

Madhvi: As we close another chapter of our journey together, I want to leave you with a thought. You’re not alone on this path, whether you’re seeking guidance, resources, or just a sense of belonging. We are here to help, every step of the way.

For more insights, support, and resources, make sure you visit Ananya’s website, www.asap.org.in. And if you find yourself needing someone to talk to or have specific questions, feel free to reach out to us at 9848513192.

At Ananya, we extend our support not just to our children, but to their incredible mothers and families, providing a helping hand whenever you need it.

Thank you for joining us today. Remember, this journey might be challenging, but it’s also filled with moments of joy, growth, and profound connection. We look forward to continuing this conversation with you, offering our support, expertise, and a community that truly understands.

Until next time, stay strong, keep loving, and never hesitate to reach out.

Enquiry Form

Tell us a little bit about yourself