Youngsters like Avinash are the beneficiaries of unfailing dedication of the teachers, staff, volunteers and parents themselves. No certain cure for Cerebral Palsy exists, but it's a proven fact that proper and continuous therapy does make a whole lot of difference. And there's education, where the aim is to help children develop their physical, intellectual and social abilities to be independent.
Mrs. Kairali Nair, is a Special Educator at the Centre and who has done a Learning Disability Course, "We have Class 3, Class 4, Class 7 and Class 10. For the first three we follow the ICSE syllabus. Sometimes we change the textbooks according to the needs of the child leaving out things that are not relevant. When they finish Class 7, we will register them for Class 10 through the National Open School (NOS)." The NOS system is a nationally devised syllabus that enables students to appear for secondary examinations. It's the first step towards their gradual integration into the community. "We had some bright students last year. Four of them finished their 12th. Spastic children have no problem with learning and some are in fact very brilliant," says Mrs. Kairali Nair, who's been teaching at the school for 8 years.
Imagine working with a child that's almost a tiny-tot and someone with multiple disorders. Then one sees ability in that child and there springs a ray of hope. The hope that this child 10 years hence could be a part of the mainstream of life with proper training, proper education, proper encouragement for active learning and creating an environment which would enable them to overcome problems.
This is Mrs. Priya Rao's forte; working with children in their early years. "There's a lot of work and energy that goes into training a child and the foundation has to be very strong with children having so many associated disorders," says the Vice Principal of the Centre for Special Education. She's been with the school since 1982, almost from inception and for 5 years she was Head of the Department for Early Education, which is from Nursery (or 'Playgroup' as its called) till Class 4.
"It's an extremely critical age," Mrs. Priya Rao says as she goes on to explain why. "What happens is that if the right inputs aren't provided, with so many disorders and limitations the child can average off slowly." Inputs aren't just for the child; much of the training and counseling is aimed at parents. "I work with the parents extensively especially mothers of younger children to basically make them understand why I'm using a certain approach," emphasizes Mrs. Rao. For the first two years or so at least, it is imperative that parents (or could be the caretaker or the child's grandmother) to be involved in the training process. In most cases, it's the mother's who play the crucial role and because the process is so complex its imperative they understand the importance of the 'whys' of structured training and why its so essential to continue the training at home. And confirm their belief that their child's condition can in fact be improved. And have the results shown? "Oh Yes!" replies Mrs. Rao. "Ashwin, Mohan, Nandish – they were all my students. Some of them had extreme problems and I had to work very closely with them and their parents."
No doubt, much of the credit goes to the teachers for their effort towards the rehabilitation of these children. But one shouldn't forget the equally important role of the parent. For them it's a different experience from having a normal child. They accept and love them as people and not as handicapped persons. It goes a long way in the child's growing up to be independent and self-reliant.