(Article copy-edited by volunteer, Ms Chelsea Kiew)
Every parent would wish good health and happiness for their child, and while the circumstances of the Senthil family might differ slightly from the “average” family, they’ve found a way to make the most of the lot that life has given them.
How it was discovered:
When Mr Rajagopal Senthil and Ms Mathivathani Mummurthy first discovered their daughter, Poornikha amid an epilepsy fit while sleeping, both parents were understandably distraught. She was only five years old at the time. Her parents immediately brought her to a neurologist and obtained medication to help her control the condition. While she is currently on three different types of medicine to control her epilepsy fits, the congenital condition remains undiagnosed, and both medical professionals and Poornikha’s parents remain unsure as to what are the exact triggers that cause the fits.
Her condition extends beyond the occasional epilepsy fit. Her parents have shared that Poornikha experiences mobility issues due to difficulty in walking. Her gait is imbalanced as she bends her right knee when walking. This causes her to sustain injuries from falling, and her parents often have to help support her. Aside from mobility issues, Poornikha’s undiagnosed condition leads to difficulties communicating with others, with pronunciation issues in her speech.
Metta School’s intervention:
Poornikha’s condition has improved by leaps and bounds since she entered Metta Welfare Association in 2017. At Metta School, Poornikha attends weekly occupational therapy (OT) and speech-language therapy (ST) sessions, both of which provide significant assistance in helping Poornikha to manage her condition.
During her weekly occupational therapy (OT) group sessions with her classmates, Poornikha will take part in obstacle courses. Aside from being great fun, these obstacle courses allow her to work on her sensory integration skills, as well as provide a warm-up for handwriting tasks.
As part of the OT sessions, Poornikha takes part in group fine motor activities. Encouraging pincer strength, it allows Poornikha to develop a better grip for writing. Along with this, Poornikha and her classmates also learn the alphabet through alphabet formation. Not only is this activity fun and engaging for the class, but this multi-sensorial approach also encourages the internalisation of information.
Furthermore, while Poornikha’s congenital medical condition has resulted in communication difficulties, this does not stop her from trying her very best in making her thoughts known to others. Poornikha also enjoys Metta School’s speech-language therapy (ST) sessions.
During the sessions, she works on Phonological Awareness (PA). Phonological awareness is the foundation that allows us to communicate effectively with others, from speaking clearly to reading. To work on her PA, Poornikha learns how to breaks up words into syllables (e.g. ba + na + na = banana. Banana has three beats) and plays with sounds (e.g. bat – b + c = cat) in words.
Since Poornikha’s engagement in Metta School’s speech-language therapy (ST) sessions, she has become more confident in speaking and interacting with other people. Now able to use proper short sentences in English, she can communicate with her parents, who in turn, can understand Poornikha’s wants and needs.
While Poornikha is still young and has a long journey of learning ahead of her, she has shown tremendous improvement and is slowly growing into a happy young woman.