Chennai: Five-year-old Gautham Kannan cannot walk. He would not speak to anyone at home. His parents, Lingaya and Varalakshmi, both work in private firms for a meagre income, were shattered, thinking about Kannan’s future.
They were depressed and couldn’t reveal to relatives and friends that Kannan had multiple disabilities, including slight mental retardation. When they heard about the day care centre run by the SSA (Sarva Siksha Abhiyan) where children, like Kannan, are taken care of for free and even taught skills enabling them to be included in regular school, they were truly glad.
A year ago, they enrolled him in the SSA day care centre at Kelambakkam and took turns to bring him and be with him for the entire school day. The physiotherapists and teachers treated Kannan with love and affection and taught him to walk. Kannan now attempts to stand on his own legs and listens to music.
“Now I admire Kannan, he stands for 10 minutes without my support and listens to songs on TV,” says Lingaya. Thanks to these day care centres, run by SSA, scores of disabled children are gaining the confidence to go to school.
These centres act as a bridge between home and regular school, relieving the parents for a few hours and also educating special children in a mode that is suitable for them. Several children, like Kannan, have started to smile and speak and begun learning too like regular children.
Teaching the child to have eye contact, to stand and walk and to communicate are big hurdles. A team of specialists at SSA take charge and bring in a great difference in the children's personalities. In 2013 alone, more than 4,800 children were assimilated into normal schools after being coached at SSA's day care centres.
The testimonials that parents give glow. According to Tamilarasi Pandurangan, (28), the mother of two-year-old Sakthi, a mentally challenged child, “I was hopeless and dejected when my son did not react to my voice. I brought him to the SSA day care centre last year which he attended regularly. The teachers counselled me first and told me to accept the difficulties that my child would have and explained how he would overcome them. He was placed in a colourful couch and was given balls. After a week, he began responding. Gradually, he developed an attention span, and he now smiles at me,” she said.
State Project Director of SSA C.N. Maheswaran said, “We are touched by the responses from parents. Our teachers make all the efforts required to enroll special children in normal schools. We provide the transportation fare for parents to bring them to our centre. We teach, feed and provide free treatment for the child at one place so that the parents are relieved.”
He added that even after the enrollment in normal schools, students visited the day care centres twice a week to cope with the syllabus in their new school with the help of SSA teachers. When children cannot be brought to the school,teachers from the SSA centres visit their homes to treat and to teach them.
“Inclusive education is our motto,” Maheswaran said with pride.