I recently visited a residential school for mentally retarded in Thaltej, Ahmedabad. The organization was established in 1979 and children from all over the state varying from age group of 6-21 years are nurtured here. Nearly 85-90 students reside here and nearly 10-12 students come here daily.
Maximum activities take place in their curriculum which they enjoy the most. Singing, dancing, art, drawing are common for all the students. Language and Mathematics are included for the students with the age group of 6-8 years. Therapies like ‘occupational therapy’ and ‘speech therapy’ are also a part of their curriculum.
Children suffering from mental disabilities are mostly hyperactive, they can’t be stable for more than 3-5 minutes. They are very honest and innocent, that they always forgive and forget. Complaining about food or anything is not in them. Most of the children are loners but attention seekers, aggressive but sensitive and emotional. They have short memory and need repetition. They suffer from verbal and linguistic disabilities and many may not be able to grip the pen also.
According to the norms of the government, the child can stay in these types of organizations for 21 years of their physical age only. After 21 years, their responsibilities is given back to their parents. But I was really shocked when they told me that their parents are not ready to accept them. They are not ready to keep them in their house with them for 25 days of Diwali vacation or 40 days of summer vacation.
When we are in school, we think of going home and telling our mother to prepare our favorite dish that evening. Whom will they tell when their mother only doesn’t want them around? Pathetic!
One of the main reasons of disabilities is that the couple doesn’t want the baby but it’s too late to abort and the case ends up with the child becoming the victim of schizophrenia, down syndrome, cerebral palsy or any other psychological disorders.
After the physical age of 21 years, their life is even more miserable. They are not socially accepted. People call them ‘Mad’ and avoid them. Though they forgive and forget, they are emotionally sensitive. Then they are found on streets as beggars till the day they die.
Although they suffer from so many disabilities and disorders, they are very happy in their own world.The interaction with multi-disabled boy that touched me the most was when I asked him what does he do, he answered, “I study whatever the teacher teaches us and in vacations, when I go home, I give away my books to pasti walah and take that money. I have a piggy bank in which I put that money. During Diwali or any other festival, when my mama gives me money I put that money in the bank too. I have not started using that money. Do you know when I am going to use that money? When my parents will die I will go to Ratangiri. I will need money for lodging and accommodation. So for that I began collecting money”
I was so moved by that boy. How can they accept the reality but their parents can’t? Parents of these kind of children have to understand their child and come down to their age to tackle them. But, for that they need to accept them.
Friends, they are not mentally retarded, they are specially-abled children. If you come across any specially-abled child, please accept them, try understanding them and an interaction of even 5 minutes is precious, if not to us but to them.