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Mom Whose Toddler Has Speech Delay, ADHD Shares Expert-Approved 'Hack' To Help Kids Focus
PHOTO BY courtesy of Jan Heather Muro Aguila
  • They say a mom’s instinct is unparalleled when it comes to her child. So when Jan Heather Muro Aguila, 29, noticed that her firstborn was behaving differently than how a usual 2-year-old would behave, she and her husband Kim decided to consult a developmental pediatrician (dev ped).

    In one of her posts in our parenting community, Smart Parenting Village, Jan shares that her daughter, Arabella Victoria or “Arya”, now 4 years old, was eventually diagnosed with speech delay, separation anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

    She also shared the behaviors she observed prior to the diagnosis:

    • No eye contact when we are talking. Hindi tumutugon kahit tawagin.
    • Madaling mafrustrate sa laruan. Like shape sorter, ‘pag ‘di niya mailusot ‘yung shape sa butas, nagagalit agad sabay tapon ng laruan.
    • In educational charts like alphabet, letter D pa lang, tumatakbo na [palayo].
    • Madaling madistract. Hindi makatapos ng isang task or play.
    • During tantrums, nananakit. Nanghahampas. Sigaw ng sigaw. Lalo na’t ‘di makuha ang gusto.
    • She’s 23 months old pero mommy at daddy pa lang ang alam na word.
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    Jan admits that at first, she was in denial. But her concern for her child won. “I remember the first time na nagpaconsult kami. Ang tanong ni doktora, bakit ako kumokunsulta. I told her na I can see that there is a delay in my daughter’s speech development. And hindi siya [maka]-focus whenever I am telling her to do one thing,” Jan recalls.

    She adds that her doctor smiled upon hearing her answer. “Sabi niya, this is the common mistake of parents nowadays — we are all in denial. Early intervention is the key. Maaga mong ma-start ‘yung pag-instill ng focus, mas madali mo siyang matuturuan.”


    After six months of occupational therapy (OT), Jan shares that Arya's speech improved drastically. "She started talking really well. So we decided not to have speech therapy after that. The dev ped no longer recommended to continue the OT since during the evaluation, there is a big difference than our first visit. She said na we should just continue the things we learned from her OT at home," Jan tells SmartParenting.com.ph.

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    How to help a child calm down

    Jan with her husband Kim and daughters Arya and Alexandria.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Jan Heather Muro Aguila

    For parents of toddlers, one of the hardest parts is getting them to focus. At this age, they are still learning to pay attention, so it’s normal for them to be makulit and malikot. Through her consultations with their DevPed, Jan was able to learn a technique called “Quiet Hands,” which can help calm hyperactive kids down.

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    “This method stops your child from getting their hands on other things. It will occupy their hands, in a way,” Jan explains. “Each time na sabihin ninyong ‘quiet hands,’ uupo lang siya. They won’t move their hands and wait for you to introduce something.” She shares that it gets your child to stop hitting you and others as well. More importantly, it makes them more open to learning.

    The best way to introduce quiet hands is through play. Jan shares that it doesn’t just help Arya calm down — her second child, Alexandria, who is 16-months-old, benefits from it as well.

    “I started this when Alexandria was nearing a year old. We put our hands together on top of their study table and we do finger tapping. Parang nag-pa-piano lang. But while doing it, you have to tell your child na ‘yun ang quiet hands,” Jan explains. “Sing a song. Call it ‘Happy Hands’ — mas madali niyang matututunan. For bigger kids, it is easier to teach them this kasi nakakaintindi na ng maayos.”

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    How to help your child become better learners at home

    Jan shares that occupational therapy really helped her daughter improve in terms of learning and behavior.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Jan Heather Muro Aguila

    Because of the enhanced community quarantine, it’s essential to help your child be more open to learning since she might be studying at home for the meantime. Jan shares a few more tips that she learned from Arya’s speech and occupational therapists:

    Remove all distractions.

     Kids are easily distracted. “When our therapist advised us to lessen the toys, we put almost half of their toys in the storage room. ‘Pag maraming nakikita, mas mabilis mawala ang attention span ng isang bata, lalo na when it comes to learning. Mas nagiging busy siya sa iba niyang nakikita or naririnig,” Jan says.

    She adds, “Choose a place in your house where you can teach your baby one-on-one. If may maliit na kapatid, ibigay kay Daddy or Lola para maalagaan. Or keep them busy sa isang sulok. Distraction din kasi sila.”

    Introduce toys or learning materials one at a time.

     If you’re teaching your child something new, ensure that toys and books are out of your child’s reach. “’Pag nilagay mo lahat sa harapan niya, kukuhanin niya ‘yun isa-isa. But if you introduce books or toys one at a time, dun lang sa hawak mo ang focus niya,” Jan explains.

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    Do repetitive play.

    “Walang bata ang natututo ng isang sabihan lang,” Jan says. “You have to repeat several times for them to learn everything. Be patient. Concentration and impulse control are big things. Mahirap ituro. Pero kung paulit-ulit matututunan agad ng bata.”

    Repetition is vital to your toddler’s development, according to experts. It is the foundation of early learning. “A one-time experience is not enough for a neural connection to form and stabilize. It is through repetition that possibility becomes ability," explained Kindermusik educator Analiisa Reichlin. Through this, you can help improve your toddler’s brain functions such as information retention or memory building.


    If your child can’t do something the first time, or even the hundredth time, it is perfectly fine, says Jan. “Hand-eye coordination takes a long time to develop. I introduced tower rings to Alexandria when she was exactly 1-year-old. Tinatapon niya pagkatapos mailagay ang isa. But because of repetitive play, she learned to be patient with it. And sa awa ng Diyos, natapos na niya.”

    Jan emphasizes that to help your kids become better learners, it’s important to practice these with your child at a young age. “This is how we develop our child’s focus. Unahin po ang focus para ready na siya to learn,” she says.



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