Early intervention in cerebral palsy and related conditions is important because the central nervous system is most adaptable to change during the first three years of life. In addition, many of the secondary musculo-skeletal complications of cerebral palsy are completely or partially avoidable through good early management of an infants posture, positioning and activity. It is in the early years that we learn how to communicate with others around us and to understand our environment through all the senses - if our experience is limited during the early years, either through our sensory losses or by inadequate exposure to a wide range of learning opportunities, then the deprivation can lead to long term and avoidable learning and physical impairments.
Stepping Stones already sees a few infants and very young children for therapy, but we know that there must be many more living in and around the communities where we visit, but who remain unknown to us. We have plans to establish a more organised early intervention programme, called Tiny Steps, which will provide a base from which to invite groups of parents (usually mothers) to attend regularly with their children and to gain support from each other while discovering how good handling, play and communication will enable their children to succeed far more than they may have thought possible.
Programmes such as this are popular throughout the world and are considered to offer real and measurable impact and it is essential that these opportunities are made available to many of the otherwise isolated and disadvantaged families around Mae Sot. Sadly, it is not unusual to find disabled children who have spent their whole lives in a single room, on the floor, or occasionally packed in sandpits to keep them safe while parents work. Some parents are surprised to learn of other families in similar conditions living nearby, but due, in part, to the stigma associated with disability, their infant or child has been kept in isolation, unable to experience the world as fully as they should. Stepping Stones will work closely with their partners to establish the Tiny Steps project as soon as funding allows. In the meantime, we will continue to deliver early intervention whenever the opportunity arises.