A Life Less Ordinary


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller Yes, it’s all about the heart… it’s only with one inexplicable twist of the heart that a self-obsessed person got into working with the physically and mentally challenged, and has reached a stage where at every waking moment he’s thinking about them! About a decade ago, Kishore Rawat was a regular career-minded individual who kicked up his job for a long holiday. He came back to work again, enjoying his life to the fullest. Somewhere along, in an indefinable moment, he just started working with ‘special’ children. Since then, he’s played an active role in setting up the Little Angel School for such children and Human Development Centre for slightly older students, both in Mumbai. Th ough he continues to fly, the Human Development Centre is his home, for home is where the heart is. This could well be your own story, if you find in yourself a passion to work with special children.
Rawat’s kind of satisfaction is one that any person looks for when working in special education, but the real challenge is to work with the students every day, day after day, making them as independent as they can get. “Our children have some limitations, but I look at what they can do, instead of what they can’t,” says Rawat, pointing out that it’s important to teach them to be independent in their daily activities.
“Students may have a retention and communication problem. They may have to be reminded repeatedly about certain activities, making them more responsible. In a class, besides other things, I train them for tasks, from talking over the phone to first aid.” In fact, students are taken for regular outings, and recently, they went on a two-day outstation picnic, away from home, learning how to socialise with ‘regular’ people, besides learning to stay with company other than family.
“It is one thing to talk about adopting education policies from the Western countries and another to actually do something about it,” says veteran educator Jyoti Mehta, who has been coaching the mentally and physically challenged for many years. Inclusive education is pegged to be the need of the day, but where do our schools have the facilities to support children with special learning needs? Does our annual spending on education allow for it? In fact, to look aft er children with special needs, the National Policy on Education in 1986 had recommended integration of students with special needs with other students in general schools. This, however, could be recommended for students with slight disabilities only. A provision was made by the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) to orient teachers and education officers by introducing a module on needs of special children in training programmes. “Even if that may be the case, I cannot have my child go to a ‘regular’ school,” says Kusum Mehta, mother of Dhaval who is a case of mental retardation. Dhaval, 15, struggles to even cope with everyday activities like wearing his shoes or buttoning his shirt. “I need a sensitive special educator who can at least mould him to take care of his basic needs and be as independent as possible,” says the concerned parent.
“According to many experts, the problem with special education is that no two students are the same. So a uniform method cannot be applicable to students in a class, year aft er year,” explains Nikita Sheth, who has a BEd in Special Education from SNDT University in Mumbai and works with students with learning disabilities. According to her, the theory taught in colleges does not help as much in practical working life as hands on experience. “The college exposed us to special children from all strata of society, which challenged us students in every possible way,” she informs.
Despite having all the knowledge and being prepared for a class that you are going to conduct, it could be that things don’t go as planned at all. “I remember once when working with a student who is a patient of cerebral palsy and epilepsy. I was going to explain to him a concept as basic as a playground. I had my model ready, but the kid had an epileptic fit. There was nothing I could do then!” says Sheth. She adds that knowing the student’s exact problem is imperative, citing the example of a student whom she pushed to learn how to spell for a month, because she thought he was a slow learner and will pick it up. It so turned out that he was borderline mentally challenged and could not have learnt how to spell.
Apart from oodles of patience, sensitivity, and knowledge, one quality that is absolutely necessary to be in this field is creativity. “You have to keep them interested. My basic objective for any class is that no child should feel that he shouldn’t be in my class. I work towards getting the child to do the best he can,” Sheth concludes. The work can be frustrating but those with patience emerge as winners. True winners, not just for themselves but for the students as well.

Institutes in India

  • Amar Jyoti Rehabilitation and Research Centre, Delhi
  • Indira Gandhi National Open University – Distance Education
  • Dr B R Ambedkar Open University – Distance Education
  • Rehab Council of India – Distance Education
  • The National Association for the Blind, Mumbai and Delhi
  • Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, Mumbai
  • Pandit D Upadhayaya Institute for the Physcially Handicapped, Delhi
  • Dr S R Chandrashekar Institute of Speech & Hearing, Bangalore
  • Mind’s College of Education Research Society for the Care Treatment and  Training of Children in Need of Social Care, Mumbai
  • Dept of Special Education, SNDT University, Mumbai
  • Dikush Teacher Training in Special Education, Mumbai
  • Hashu Advani College of Special Education, Mumbai
  • The Spastics Society of India, Mumbai
  • Manovikas Kendra, Rehabilitation and Research Institute for the Handicapped, Kolkata

Volume 1 Issue 4


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