A child born to an addicted mother starts life with disadvantages. However, this child is no less intelligent than a child born free of addiction.
Their chances of success are entirely possible. These children require an adapted learning environment to support their journey to success by understanding individuals who know how to best support crack-affected children.
Who Are Crack-Affected Children?
Crack-affected children are children who were exposed to crack cocaine (known as crack) during pregnancy. At birth, unlike a heroin baby, this baby is not addicted.
Using crack damages the baby’s blood vessels. Constricted blood vessels resulting from the mother using crack, cutting off the blood supply, effectively strangling the fetus.
There is speculation about the extent of the damage of strangulation. Some believe it is dependent on when the mother used crack during the pregnancy.
Almost half of the babies with abnormal scan results had a severe intracranial lesion. Meaning they had holes in their brains.
How Are They Different?
Crack-affected children look the same as any other children. Their physical attributes: height, weight, and energy are the same.
A difference identified by doctors is known as “soft” neurological damage. “Soft” means that it is difficult to say what is wrong with the child until compared to another child.
Some “soft” signs are; a stiff arched backs when being picked up, indicating discomfort with the human touch, inconsolable, endless crying, and flailing arms while crying.
Babies who are not affected by drugs love human contact. They want to be looked at, cuddled, and enjoy hearing their mother sing. These actions stimulate their brains to make connections. They love the sight of their mother’s face and thrive when making eye to eye contact.
A crack-affected baby does not like eye-to-eye contact. Any physical contact can overwhelm a crack baby. The recommendation is that only one sense is challenged or connected with at a time. For example, if holding a crack-affected baby, stay silent and avert the eyes. Sing to a crack baby while it is in its crib with the lights out.
Preschool crack-affected toddlers are slow to walk and talk. They are insular and become isolated in social situations because of their unpredictable, often violent behavior. Remorse and a sign of conscience are absent.
A crack-affected preschooler is responsive to instructions and structure but is unable to organize themselves.
School-age crack-affected children can be impulsive and violent. They are hyperactive, disruptive, and unable to focus. Friendships are slow to develop, and they tend to be isolated. Most of the problems a crack-affected toddler experienced continue into primary, middle, and senior school. Often, a crack-affected child is unable to fit into mainstream schooling.
How Can Schools Respond?
Crack-affected children who experience tailored early intervention for 1 to 3 years potentially return to mainstream classes.
Identifying a crack-affected child before age 2 reduces the early intervention period to as little as two years. However, if the child is not seen until they are age 5, more protracted intervention might be necessary.
If a crack-affected child receives early intervention, the theory is that special education will not be necessary throughout their schooling. Special teaching techniques ensure that a child masters basic academic and social skills, enabling them to return to regular classes.
A crack-affected child who does not receive any form of intervention will continue to experience the problems throughout each developmental stage.
Teachers will need to emphasize their long-term expectations to the students. Due to the nature of their affliction, while their intellect is unaffected, a crack-affected child will need to be taught and retaught over an extended period.
The classroom environment and teaching techniques will need to be as unexciting as possible. The dull method of teaching is the opposite of what is recommended in mainstream education. The reason is that crack-affected children are easily overwhelmed. They need simple routines to feel secure.
Teachers will need to connect with a crack-affected intellectually as facial expressions have no meaning. There should be consistency in communication techniques at home and school.
Similarly, praise should be verbal. A smile may be misunderstood.
Teaching Social Skills
A crack-affected child will pick up social skills by copying or being taught verbally. Signs and facial expressions will go unnoticed. Role-playing is an effective teaching tool. It helps a child practice interacting face to face.
Play can be challenging without early intervention. Crack-affected children do not understand the value or sense of play. Often their physical activities are random and disorganized; therefore, play instructions will need to be very specific and verbal.
Routines aid a teacher in maintaining the attention of a crack-affected child. The child will need to be prepared well in advance if there is a change in a routine.
Sadly some children are more challenging than others and may need restraining.
Restraining a child safely and correctly is critical for crack-affected children who become hyperactive or threaten to harm others. A child will learn through this technique and eventually respond to a quick hug or manage to calm themselves.
Time-outs can also be effective for children with good verbal skills. Taking away privileges with the full explanation is also an effective tool. Of course, the reason may need to be repeated several times.
It is believed that the sky’s the limit for crack-affected children and that with resources and early intervention, Specially trained individuals and organizations can save a generation of children.