A first in Seychelles: Clinic helps treat autism, ADHD, dyslexia
Lafleur started her practice in April based at Machabee, Glacis. (Sarentha Luther, NeuroSey)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The first private practice to offer neuropsychological services in Seychelles opened recently. NeuroSey offers services for individuals with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, learning disabilities, developmental delays, neurodiverse conditions and neurological disorders.
It also offers assessment, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation services for individuals with a variety of brain disorders and difficulties.
SNA met with 26-year-old Sarentha Luther, the founder and main practitioner at NeuroSey, to learn more about her and the services that she offers.
SNA: When did your interest in neuropsychology start?
SL: In the journey of trying to find yourself, I went a little bit into law, and during my final year at the School of Advanced Levels, I decided that I wanted to do psychology because I was so interested in the brain. I think that I love neurology because it focuses on the brain and for me, the brain is one of the most fascinating organs in the human body because it controls everything we do, and all of who we are basically.
There is so much that we do not understand about it. I did my first degree in psychology at Middlesex University in Mauritius. When I was there, one of my lecturers encouraged me to do it as she saw that I had an interest but at that time I had no idea that you could do this in a psychological aspect, I thought you had to study medicine. When I got the scholarship to do my Masters that is when I went to do neuropsychology. I studied clinical neuropsychology in the UK at the Bangor University in Wales.
SNA: At what point did you decide to open your practice in Seychelles?
SL: Last year, when the pandemic started, I was doing my clinical internship with my university but they had to stop the in-person sessions and had to do it online. It was a shock for us. I think a lot of us were hoping to get the experience that students before us got but we had to accommodate a lot and that is why I came back.
When I got back, I worked at IECD (Institute for Early Childhood Development) for six months. I wanted to get a feel of what it's like to work with kids in Seychelles. I learned that there was only one person working with children with autism and developmental delays in Seychelles and I was surprised to learn this.
I then decided to start my practice in April this year. My clinic is based at Machabee, Glacis but I am looking to move to Victoria soon. My working hours are from Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 6 pm during the week and 9 am to 3 pm on Saturdays.
|26-year-old Sarentha Luther is the founder and main practitioner at NeuroSey. (Sarentha Luther, NeuroSey) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
SNA: How did the idea to set up your practice come about?
SL: I wanted to work at the Ministry of Health - that was the goal for me when I came back because that is the place that sees people with mental disabilities or neurological disorders. However, because of all the budget issues, I was told that they will not be able to give me a job anytime soon, probably not even by next year.
One of my mentor and friends Marina Shamova, a clinical phycologist, inspired me. She taught me that there is a possibility for a practitioner to open her own private practice in Seychelles, and that is exactly what I did. This is something I love to do, and I feel like I have the baggage and the ability to do so. I asked myself why was I sitting in an office job when there are people who need my skills and expertise? I really wanted to help other people with what I trained to do and that is when I thought about going into private practice.
SNA: How has it been since you opened your practice?
SL: I have received a lot of positive response from people actually. It was not a smooth transition - I had a pool of people coming to me as soon as I opened who have been waiting for such a service. It has been a learning experience for me in a lot of ways as I have not really practiced with this group of the local population.
I think that a lot of people are happy because it is a Seychellois who is offering this service. The other alternative is for them to go overseas and it is different compared to when a Seychellois is giving the service. When it is a fellow Seychellois giving this service, it is easier as I understand our culture, can speak and understand Creole and as so a person can express themselves better. They also have a sense of relief.
SNA: What services do you offer?
SL: I offer diagnostic testing, assessment as well as play therapy. This is the type of therapy that is used with children with autism and other types of neurodevelopmental disorders. You have to play with them, get them comfortable so as to get to know them. I also do behavioural therapy which is used to help children that have self-aggression problems or children who have problems interacting with other children.
In such sessions, I teach them social skills and alternative ways to understand how to manage their emotions and how to learn skills. I offer diagnostic testing for autism, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia, intellectual disabilities and some other brain conditions. I work with children from 18 months to 16 years. But I have had clients of a wide age range mostly within the range of children up to five years. This is usually the age group where parents notice these problems more.
I also do parent education and parent training. I emphasise this because I cannot be with that child for the rest of their life. Parents need to take the wheels at one point and continue from where I left off. I sometimes do mini counselling sessions for parents and for families. I do workshops and training for teachers.
Through this, I provide them with information on how to identify children with autism and how they can pinpoint different things. This is to spread more awareness about not just autism, but different types of developmental disorders that I would honestly say have been neglected in Seychelles.
|Luther offers diagnostic testing, assessment as well as play therapy. (Sarentha Luther, NeuroSey) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
SNA: How would you describe the prevalence of neurological disorders in Seychelles?
SL: There needs to be more research done about autism in Seychelles. I think so because the prevalence of autism is not usually this high in a population. Recent studies have shown it is in one in every 68 children. When you think about prevalence you need to think about how big the population is.
What I find in Seychelles is that a lot of people say that a kid is autistic. If there is that many children with autism, I think that there need to be researches done on this because it is a point of concern that we should look into. Why are there so many kids being diagnosed with autism in Seychelles? There are also other types of neurological disorders that parents aren't necessarily aware of and not educated about. I think there should be more education done on these types of disorders in the country as well.
SNA: What are some of the conditions that you see the most?
SL: ADHD is the most common disorder that I encounter here and I am not surprised as it is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in the world. What surprises me is that we do not talk about it. ADHD is short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and basically, it has three components - hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity.
Children with ADHD might be seen as daydreaming a lot, and people might say that they are lazy. In classes, they tend to disturb other children and cannot sit still. A lot of times we classify these as behavioural problems. ADHD is quite prevalent in children whose parents used drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. Drugs and alcohol affect the brain of a child. Another condition I have seen is dyslexia and it takes second place, and autism is not the biggest one for me. Maybe many have previously been diagnosed and as such are not seeking my service.
SNA: How can the population be educated on the different neurological disorders?
SL: What affects someone from birth and most of their childhood is called a neurodevelopmental disorder. It starts before they are born and grow up the condition. Neurological disorders can be something that you get can also get from for example, a brain injury. There is the need for parents to know the difference between the two.
To make more people aware of it, we need more people to talk about it. I started a Facebook group, called 'Designed Differently' and this is exactly what I do on the group - I make educational videos. I started it way before I started practicing. More health professionals need to talk about other types of disorders and developmental delays that can affect children.
There also needs to be more support groups. I do not know if there is a Down syndrome support group here in Seychelles, and this is a condition that we have here in the country. The same goes for dyslexia and ADHD. I work with people who have these conditions and ADHD is actually way more common than autism and a lot of the time a lot of these syndromes overlap. You see similar symptoms in different types of neurodevelopmental disorders. I think a lot more education and awareness about it will help.
SNA: What treatment do you provide to these children?
SL: With dyslexia, there is a specific type of intervention used and at the moment I am undertaking a course to be able to help deliver some aspects of this treatment. I want to offer the best kind of service that my clients need.
With ADHD and autism, I can do behavioural and play therapy for these children. What I usually do with dyslexia is meet with the teachers and together we look for ways to accommodate the child in the classroom. We usually switch reading activities to oral. A lot of children with dyslexia are actually very intelligent it's just that they have difficulty reading and writing.
SNA: Do you have any last words?
SL: I think that in the field there need to be more collaborations. I don't have that many years of experience, and I went into this privately because I know there is a need for the service and I am passionate about what I am doing. Some parents are desperate and are seeking the services they need to help their children. I have a niece who is on the spectrum and we have been waiting for her to get help for years. I ended up having to try and help her the best way I can.
There needs to be more encouragement coming from the government and collaboration with other entities. There needs to be more encouragement for young people to go into this. I think that as professionals we need to be more open to collaboration and cooperation. We should not be territorial about this as it has to do with the wellbeing of people as they need this help. There is a lot of work that needs to be done on this front for us all to work together.