Operational Directive for Implementation of Services (ODIS) for Children 0-3 Years of Age as Part of the Early Childhood Care Education and Development under ICDS
Importance of early stimulation and care in development
Stimulation simply refers to age appropriate sensory and physical learning experiences during early childhood that promotes a sense of security to the child, and helps him/her thrive. Stimulation could be in the form of close proximity to the mother, being hugged and fondled, watching and reaching out to the mother, listening to her voice, are all experiences that help the baby to develop feelings of security. Stimulation requires a continuous age appropriate dialogue between the child and the caregiver in order to ensure that developmental milestones are achieved (Muralidharan & Asthana, 1991). The care that children receive has powerful effects on their survival, growth, and development.
Early years are central in every child’s life due to rapid brain development. A newborn’s brain is already 25 percent of the weight of the adult brain. In the first three years of a child’s life, the brain grows to almost 80 percent of the adult size and within six years to about 90 percent. Thus, utilization of sensory pathways and development of language and communication is vital for a healthy brain development. Hence, infant-caregiver interactions during the initial years prove to be crucial.
Role of ICDS
Recognizing the importance of care and early stimulation in the survival and growth of children, the ICDS Mission Framework has mandated the provision of the following core interventions for children 0-3 years of age as part of the Early Childhood Care and Education component:
- Home based guidance for parents
- Early stimulation
- Early Screening and referral
- Optimal IYCF practices
- Monthly monitoring and promotion of child growth developmental milestones
Further, the National ECCE Policy (2013) elucidates on the age specific needs of birth -3 years age group focusing on survival, safety, protective environment, health care, and nutrition including infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices for the first six months, attachment to an adult, opportunity for psycho-social stimulation and early interaction in safe, nurturing and stimulating environments within the home and appropriate child care centers.
The policy thus recognizes that young children are best cared for in their family environment; thus strengthening family capability to care for and protect the child needs highest priority. Parents and family members need to be informed and educated about good childcare practices related to infant and young child feeding practices, growth monitoring, stimulation, play, and early education. The Frontline Workers (FLWs) such as Anganwadi Worker (AWW), Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), and Auxillary Nurse and Midwife (ANM) collaboratively play a crucial role in the dissemination of this information through home visits and monthly community gatherings which are a crucial component of ICDS and Health.
Guidelines for implementation of ECCED services for children 0-3 years of age
The document provides a comprehensive guideline for ensuring ECCED service delivery for children 0-3 years as per the ICDS mandate.
- Ensure regular provision of training to AWWs in the form of job orientation, refresher, and on-the-job training on the core interventions listed in the ICDS Mission under ECCE for children 0-3 years of age to ensure comprehensive service delivery.
- Ensure provision of and training for the use of job aids that could be utilized during home visits
- Periodic home visits to be undertaken by the AWW as per the ICDS mandate to counsel caregivers of children 0-3 years of age on early stimulation, IYCF, growth and developmental milestones, nutrition, and hygiene
- Strengthening the use of Mother and Child Protection (MCP) cards for: a. Providing counselling to pregnant women and mothers on key health, hygiene, and psycho-social factors b. Growth monitoring and tracking developmental delays of children 0-3 years of age c. Provision of key nutrition messages to mothers during home visit d. Monitoring immunization schedule of children and recording the same in MCP card
- Effective convergence with mobile health teams (RBSK) for health screening of all children with specific attention to children at risk of malnutrition and developmental delays/disabilities
- Periodic monitoring and supportive supervision by the supervisory cadre for effective service delivery.
The detailed guidelines are as follows:
The state department of Women and Child Development needs to ensure provision of periodic and comprehensive job orientation, on-the-job, and refresher training to make sure that all core components of service delivery for children 0-3 years under ECCE (as elaborated in the ICDS Mission Framework) are incorporated in the training curriculum.
- Provision of Job Aids
- Periodic home visits for caregiver counselling
- Use of MCP Cards for early screening and referral
- Convergence with RBSK
- Monitoring and supervision