The Child Development Centre
Sometimes the best solution is the one you create for yourself.
"If I don’t actively seek the necessary services my child needs then no one else will," says Hasna Nada, founder of the Child Development Centre (CDC) for families with children on the autism spectrum.
"I wanted an environment that embraces his abilities, makes him feel valued and where he is encouraged to meet his full potential." Determined to find a local solution for parents like herself, Nada opened the Child Development Centre in November 2013.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, "Autism Spectrum Disorders are a range of complex developmental disorders that can cause problems with thinking, feeling, language and the ability to relate to others. They are neurological disorders, which means they affect the functioning of the brain. How autism disorders affect a person and the severity of symptoms are different in each person."
The World Health Organisation estimates that ASDs occur in 1 in 88 children. Luckily, structured, comprehensive interventions can significantly improve a child’s quality of life.
Finding local resources
Due to the stigma surrounding children with learning difficulties in this region, Hasna Nada found it extremely difficult to find reliable professionals to attend to her child with ASD. The few quality professionals she did discover through word of mouth were highly sought after and without a prior booking weeks in advance it was impossible for her boy to receive the necessary attention and education.
"When have a child with ASD, life is more complicated than before. You are always seeking advice from specialists in the field. You need them at the ready and accessible. I spent a lot of time overseas for treatment and direction. There were a few meet up groups for parents to exchange information, however not all of the cases were ASD."
Each child with ASD is different and the scale of their challenges differs as well. Each diagnosis and consultation results in varying therapeutic recommendations.
"It was not a matter of every mother with a child with autism going through the same programme,"says Nada. "We all needed something different at different levels and times."
Taking matters into her own hands
So within the first year her son being officially diagnosed with ASD, Nada decided to open up the Child Development Centre. The centre serves children at different levels of the autistic spectrum disorder, mostly from moderate to high functioning and of any economic circumstance. With 15 professionally trained staff members from America, South Africa, UK and Australia, the centre caters not only to autism cases but also a variety of developmental delays and difficulties ranging from ADD, dyslexia, speech delay and many more.
"Our overall mission is to facilitate individual development for children through family support and a nurturing educational environment. We focus on a child’s individual strengths, while promoting his or her social, emotional, cognitive, communicative and physical development," explains Senior ABA Therapist Jenelle Olalo.
"It is a multidisciplinary therapy and support centre housing internationally qualified and licensed professionals who offer child-centred and evidence-based early detection and intervention, therapy and educational services." She continues, "We offer parents and children a holistic and effective approach for the challenges they may face. A one stop shop."
Getting parents involved
One of the key principles of the CDC is parental involvement. Getting parents involved in their child’s treatment not only creates a support system for the child but also educates and empowers parents who are facing this challenge.
"From the moment you realise that your child may need extra help, the emotional journey starts. Trying to make sense and accept the situation is always hard. Feelings of isolation, sadness and worry make you feel that the terrible journey you have started will never end," says Alison, mother of three-year-old Noah who attends the centre.
"At CDC I was instantly made to feel welcome, all of my concerns and questions were answered in a way that I could understand by a friendly and professional team who offer a 360 approach to all types of developmental therapy. They instantly made us feel that our son was in the best hands."
"Knowing that we are receiving the most professional care in a calm, happy and welcoming environment makes the difference to our family on a daily basis," says Alison.
"The education is not only for the children. A special emphasis is placed on involving parents in their children’s education and the ethos is that children can only progress where mums, dads and teachers work together as a team. We gain insight and direction from the observations and everyone’s stories, and also hope, as well as admonitions and warnings."
Yesenia Mohamed, mother of four-year-old Yunus says, "CDC views autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Everyone is so professional and look past what you may see as limitations and always see my child’s strengths. All that my son might become is based on his extra-foundational development, so he needs as many advocates, guides, and people that love him for who he is, and provide that support he needs for that journey towards productive, independent adulthood."
The end goal is for the child to return to mainstream education, functioning and growing among typical developing peers but also accepted as an integral member of society in general. And for the parents, they will be able to coach their own children through their continued learning tools to implement effective intervention for the challenges they may face.
"We have play dates where an integrated natural environment is created, incorporating siblings, friends and parents. This support group is where different parents with different challenges can exchange ideas and avoid pitfalls by following one another’s advice," says Olalo. "We encourage parents to sit in on sessions and watch the videos of the programs as a learning tool for themselves."
It is the true vision of Nada and her team to break down the stigma of having a child with developmental delays, disorders and learning difficulties. She wants more families to be able to have access to professional services, educational and psychological evaluations for their child at any level of the autism spectrum.
Nada is involved in the everyday running of the centre. She dedicates her time to ensuring the smooth running of the place but more importantly that every employee is dedicated and passionate about the success of each child’s development.
Her focus is to reach out to parents, teachers, school administrators and specialists working with children with learning challenges and serve as model for professional development.
The centre also offers a sponsorship program whereby parents can apply for funding assistance. This program requires a selection process however it allows the opportunity for those families who cannot afford the services provided.
"We want to reach out and assist as many families as possible and find a way to support all those children in need," Nada says.
"There is nothing like seeing a child after their first diagnosis and then watching him improve and change over time. Seeing the progress right in front of your eyes is priceless."
"Watching the parents come into the centre calm and confident, we are honoured to be a part of helping our children reach their potential."