Caring Hands

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 Lets be honest, there is no place for specially-abled children in our society except special schools. But the overall indifference is pushing them into seclusion. Nuzhat Mushtaq visits two special facilities where they live with dignity

chotaya-tara-special-childrenAsif, now 18, was just a few days old when his father passed away. Two months later his mother remarried, leaving Asif with his grandparnets. As Asif grew, without his mother, he started showing sings of metal illness. When he turned eight, occasional fits of anger and mood swing became a regular affair. “We had no idea how to keep him calm,” says Asif’s grandmother. “We used to keep him chained so that he will no harm himself or others.”

This “arrangement” lasted for one year, till one day a team of people from Chotey Tarey Foundation (CTF), visited Asif’s house. “We were surveing the locality trying to find out the number of specillay-abled children when we came across Asif,” recalls Chitanjeet Kour, administrator officer at CTF.

At first, Asif’s grandmother, fearing she might be blamed by the organization, denied that he is surffering from any disorder whatsoever. “It took us a while to convince her that Asif needs special care,” recalls Kour.  “Once she was convinced, she opened up about Asif’s troubled life and upbringing.”

After that day, since past nine years Asif is being taken care of by CTF. He is one of the few special benificiries who gets to stay at the foundation for free of cost.  “There is significant change in Asif’s behavious in all these years,” says Kour, “When he was admitted here, he used to shout, turn violent regularly, resist any therapy or treatment.”

Established in 2003, by its current president Arjumand Makhdoomi and his sister-in-law Reta De Austere, a native of Netherlands and a nurse by profession, CTF runs a school for differently-abled children from Barzulla, Sriangar. “Bascially it is a daycare centre where specially-abled children are given physiotherapy, speech therapy, vocal training, special education and behavioral modification,” says Makhdoomi.

The process of admission at CTF is done on the basis of a patient’s Intelligent Quotient (IQ) test. After the test, patients are categorized accordingly into three groups: mild, moderate and sever mentally retarded.

At present there are more than 60 patients at CTF’s daycare centre between the age group of 5 and 16. Apart from taking care of specially-abled children at their Srinagar facility, CTF conducts surveys in far flung areas of the valley, counseling partents in order to make them aware about special needs of these children.  “Like any other kid these children too have right to eduction. We help them become independent in life,” says Kour.

Another beneficiary of CTF’s all expenses paid stay is Misba, 15, who is categorized as moderate mentally retarted patient by the experts. An orphan, whose mother – a physically disabled middle aged women – begs to sustain the household, is admitted since last five years. When Misba was bought to CTF she was suffering from Cervical Dystonia. “She was completely dependent on people for even small daily activities like brushing, bathing, clothing etc. We worked on her through physio and speech therapies. Now she is relatively better,” says Kour.

In 2008, CTF tied up with New Delhi based Child Right and You (CRY) and started working in Budgam and Srinagar districts. “Under this partnership we provide home based therapies, Physiotherapy and speech therapy to special kids. We also go into localities to make partnets aware about these programmes,” says Kour.

Another such facility is Shafqat – a special school for Multiple Disabilities run by Voluntary Medicare Society (VMS) of Jammu and Kashmir Srinagar.

Functional since 2000, Shafqat has around 70 children enrolled at its In Patient Department (IPD), while more than 100 patients are admitted in its OPD. “We teach diffent skills to children who are above 16 years of age. Besides regular workshops are conducted for them where they are given training regarding art and crafts,” says Muhammad Ayub, Chief Coordinator, Shafqat.

The facility provides assistance and imparts training as per the requirement and grasping abilities of a specially-abled children, says Ayub. In case of mild mental retardation a child is given formal education called inclusive where he is taught subjects like maths, science, language, and a bit of history. “This is done till a child reaches 5th standard,” says Ayub.

In case of moderate retardation he/she is given speech and physiotherapy, behavioral modification training etc. But if a child is suffering from severe retardation then he is helped to recognize and remember fruits, vegetables, alphabets, numbers etc.  “We also teach them to carry day-to-day activities like brushing, clothing, bathing etc,” says Ayub.

Every year around two children leave Shafqat after they become independent to carry on with their lives.

“They then move on with their lives and live alosmt normal lives,” says Ayub.

Shafqat has special programmes for those patients who are not capable of attending their classes on regular basis. Sameer, 20, is part of one such skill development programme where he is taught to make make paper bags. The programme, which takes place on every Monday, provides free of cost training to such special kids. “As most of these kids are from modest background, we provide them pick and drop facilities. The aim is to keep them engaged so that they can learn something which will ultimately help them become independent in life,” says Ayub. “They feel good when they learn new skills and create something on their own.”

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