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One in eight children aged 2-9 years living in India may have at least one neuro-developmental disorder: Nitin Bindlish

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Nitin Bindlish, founder and CEO, Mom’s Belief, a holistic care provider for children with developmental needs, explains to Viveka Roychowdhury how the subscription-based online model has made clinical experts in child development more affordable and accessible

Since Mom’s Belief is a care provider for children with developmental needs, can you give us an overview of these services and the plans for expansion?

We’re working on expansion of the number of Integrated Centres from 100+ to 350+ by 2021 making us the largest organisation working in the field of children’s developmental delays. Along with an increasing number of inclusive schools associated with Mom’s Belief, the first international centre is also scheduled to open in London, UK by 2021. The plans of expansion also include expanding our reach into the GCC countries and their markets like UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Mind Belief as a vertically integrated non-special needs counterpart for Mom’s Belief will be launched in the next month. Mind Belief will include B2B and B2C programmes for mental health and wellness for adolescents and adults. The B2B programmes will cater to corporates, coaching centres, and other organisations where professionals or large groups can benefit from stress management, lifestyle coaching, mental health counselling, etc. The Mind Belief team of psychologists will address all kinds of mental health needs of adolescents and adults, and provide expert counselling, therapy support, and other related services.

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of these services?

With the advent of the pandemic, we’ve seen the dynamic change in every sector, and healthcare is no different. A major change that every household has experienced is everyone stays home 24/7, which means that parents working from home have had to juggle their professional and private life to a larger extent.

Since special needs children tend to need more attention and care the role of parents and therapists has increased exponentially. Special needs children need controlled and constant exposure to the outside world and social situations for stable progress. With everyone stuck inside such children have digressed with more regular anger and tantrum episodes due to increased stress levels.

Mom’s Belief’s experts during the pandemic worked round the clock in order to provide relevant support and assistance to parents with special needs children. Mom’s Belief has seen a 6x spike in its home programme.

How affordable are such services in India?

Such services usually are on the high side which also makes parents delay the care which the child requires. However, with digital technologies and consultation there is a shift in behaviour since technology is lessening the gap and making professional help accessible.

The subscription-based online model gives parents access to clinical experts in child development. In India, it costs approximately 30 per cent of regular therapy sessions, making it a more affordable option for middle-class families.

Keeping the aim to educate and empower parents to help take care of their children better, during the onset of the pandemic, Mom’s Belief also launched a Pay-As-You-Like campaign that works on a model under which parents can choose to pay any amount they feel comfortable paying or could afford during that period.

For those unable to afford any amount, they could also opt-out from paying and are entitled to our free Comprehensive Online Home Program or E-therapy sessions for a period of one month. Many parents have reached out to us in the past few months via this initiative. Top three therapies opted by parents for their children under this initiative were speech therapy (60 per cent), occupational therapy (15 per cent0 and structured learning/ behavioral therapy (25 per cent).

What needs to be done, from a medical clinical perspective to improve the availability of these services across India? Do we as a country have enough clinical and other staff for such services?

We need to address both the demand and supply for services. Rehabilitation which is the most important part of mental health is very limited and largely the result of efforts of individual persons and voluntary organisations. What is needed is evidence–based medical and psycho-social interventions that can address a wide range of mental health problems, including prevention and management.

According to prevalence estimates, one in eight children aged 2-9 years living in India may have at least one neuro-developmental disorder, such as hearing-impairment, autism, cerebral palsy, ADHD and learning disability. Studies also suggest that approximately 13 per cent of the entire population may be suffering from some kind of mental health disorders, 10 per cent with minor ailments like anxiety stress, etc while the remaining with serious disorders. And these percentages are growing at a steady rate and India is not prepared, taking into consideration the acute shortage of clinical professionals, including psychiatrists and psychologists.

What is the distribution of the 108 centres across India? Is there a rural-urban divide?

60 per cent of centers are in tier 1 metropolitan cities, another 25 per cent in tier 2 cities and 15 per cent in tier 3 and 4.

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