Andrei - High Hurdles to Cross
Andrei was directed to the Inocenti Early Intervention Program by Bistrita’s child protective services agency and was diagnosed with ‘pervasive developmental disorder.’ This term refers to a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination. Children with these conditions often are confused in their thinking and have problems understanding the world around them.
Andrei had no words in his vocabulary –all he could do is repeat a few random words. He was unable to cooperate and suffered from frequent bouts of anger – it was very difficult to involve him in any structured activity. In addition, he suffered from recurrent febrile seizures, which the doctors thought it could mean an early onset of epilepsy. He was given medication for those and hasn’t had a seizure in over 4 years.
It was clear our team needed to develop a meaningful long-term treatment program to help Andrei – it is known that the sooner a child with symptoms begins treatment, the better he or she will do in the long run. In fact it took almost six years of therapy to achieve this goal, under the direction of our early intervention project psychologist Ioana Miron. The treatment proceeded in carefully managed stages. Initial sessions focused on establishing a trusting relationship between the boy and the psychologist. During this stage, Andrei was encouraged to interact with whatever toys or other objects that interested him while staff members studied his behavior.
The next step was to encourage Andrei to participate in structured activities to help him maintain focus and concentration. Memory games, simple jigsaw puzzles, and picture identification games all proved to be useful exercises. Games of cards and storytelling also improved his attention span.
To overcome his feelings of anger and his temper tantrums, we taught Andrei to express his desires and needs, using words and gestures. If a toy he wanted to play with was out of reach, he learned to ask for it by name or to point to it.
Andrei’s progress meant that our specialists determined that his emotional age had reached the level of his chronological age. His transition out of our program was managed gradually, over the course of about six months during which we reduced the number of therapeutic work sessions until Andrei no longer felt the need to ask for support.
Andrei is now enrolled in the fifth grade in one of the best public schools in Bistrita, and to all intents and purposes he is a model pupil.
“His progress has been unbelievable,” observes Ioana Miron. “From a child who resisted us at every turn and refused to cooperate with anything we offered, he grew into someone ambitious to please and to do more than expected. He started asking us to extend our sessions together, so it gave him a chance to pursue more activities.”
In addition to working with Andrei, Ioana provided counseling to his mother, an extremely shy person with low self-esteem. Ioana worked to build more confidence in the mother, and to help her realize she should take care of herself as well as Andrei.
“The support you have given Andrei means so much to us, and as a parent I could not be happier with his recovery,” says the mother. “That is why, even today, Andrei keeps asking me, “When do we go see Ioana again?”