SPARK Method for children with developmental disorders
Rapid increase in developmental disorders in Japan
It has been reported that children with developmental disorders are increasing dramatically in recent years in Japan. A study conducted by Ministry of Education in 2012, for first to ninth graders going to public schools, indicated that 6.5% had significant difficulty in behavior and/or learning although they did not have problems in intellectual development. Another continuous study by the same Ministry showed a scary trend; the number of first to ninth graders who required special support due to developmental disorders have increased sevenfold in twelve years, 2006-2017, and surpassed the conventional disorders, physical and speech impairment. Because of these findings, it is said that one out of ten newborn can have developmental disorders in Japan now. Developmental disorders are acquired in our society!
Developmental disorders (green: ADHD, aqua: LD, orange: ASD, yellow: Emotional)
Conventional disorders (turquoise: Physical impairment, blue: Speech Impairment)
H17 in Japanese Calendar means 2006 and H29 means 2017
Possible cause of developmental disorders
It is known that children learn and develop their brains through emotional exchange with care givers and playing with peers, It is also known that children’s brains are born differently and develop differently due to biological dispersion and developmental dispersion. For example, children born with unique sensory and motor function might have issues in developing attachment with caregivers and/or in playing with peers. If a child doesn’t have enough experience in social interaction, there is a strong chance that the child will have a developmental delay in relationship as well as in self-regulation. Then the child might be diagnosed as ASD and/or ADHD.
Early detection and Early support
It would be better to detect and support high-risk children early as their brain’s plasticity is higher. The infant medical examination system at age 18months and 36months offered by the local government should be utilized for that purpose. However, it has been used to detect intellectual and physical impairment in the past and not used for developmental disorders. So it needs some modification. Screening tools for infants and toddlers such as M-CHAT and SRS-2 can be used to identify potential ASD and other developmental disorders. Once high-risk children are identified, they should immediately get special support and care. What kind of support do they really need? At this age, support they need is not the academic study nor social skill training but love, play, and emotional interaction. And there are very few facilities that can provide that kind of support and SPARK is one.
SPARK program is 60 minutes of active play with a lot of emotional interaction aiming to make children love to communicate and to make friends. SPARK instructor are bit zany and wild, acting as peers and they play together with the children. The concept is “move together and feel together to grow together” What we cherish at SPARK is emotional exchange with a lot of humor and empathy, not teaching and training. With this emotional approach, we motivate the children to play and help the children climb up the developmental ladder; attention->interest-> action-> meaning-> sophistication. As a result children develop to be able to engage successfully with others and to self-regulate their emotions. Then they can become active members of the society without sacrificing their individuality.
Mission and Goal of SPARK
In order to carry out the mission of eliminating acquired developmental disorders, we utilize the social-welfare platform where 90% of fee is subsidized by the government, thus it is very kind to those who are financially tight. We had opened three facilities in Tokyo servicing about 150 children and started to teach other business operators to open their facilities in the region. As of August 2019, we have 17 SPARK facilities in Japan. Yet, simple mathematics tells us that we need 10,000 facilities to eliminate acquired developmental disorders; there are about 1million newborn every year and one-tenth of them, 100,000 children, need support. Every SPARK facility accommodates about 50 children and there are 500,000 children age between 2 to 6 who need support. It all adds up to 10,000 facilities needed in Japan and it is our goal!
We welcome anybody willing to join forces in eliminating acquired developmental disorders due to lack of exercise, play and emotional interaction and in making our society more capacious for all children.