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Update from India

Philip Mathew has sent us a report on the special needs centre that he oversees at Kalathara, a village near to Kulappada.

With a regular staff of 7 (two teachers, two therapists and 3 other supporting staff), we instruct on a daily basis about 10 (of 18 registered) special needs kids plus about 8 therapy-only kids that arrive on designated days. We currently have to use two vehicles to pick up kids from 7 neighbouring towns to attend our school. The school’s focus is to teach these forgotten kids some basic academics along with self maintenance and life skills in a hands-on interactive environment. With an additional teacher and more publicity, we are hoping we can double our daily attendance.

Nikhil – 10 years old and diagnosed with Multiple Disability Cerebral Palsy with periodic seizures. He joined us on September 2016; he has limited use of his left hand (that he folds inwards) and walks with a weak left leg; doesn’t normally speak words other than a few repetitive words to get attention from the staff. In his home: Father, mother, Nikhil eldest; younger brother and sister; grandparents (father’s side); grandmother is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer; House is situated on a hillside with packed earth/mud floor and only a couple of rooms; he is kept enclosed in his home most of the time as the surrounding area is not level ground; father drinks and not present; grandfather is currently taking care of the household; because of Nikhil’s behaviour and outburst he tends to get physical punishment on a regular basis (which is only exacerbated by the fact he is stuck at home). Upon his arrival we noticed that: he smiles incessantly (not necessarily a bad thing); uses loud outbursts for expression; grabs and pulls objects & people; overall difficult to control and maintain attentiveness to teachers; could not voice his own basic needs; he needed his mother’s help for all of his self-maintenance needs; would not follow verbal instructions; he would not acknowledge or respond when his name was called.
By being in our school only for the past year, we have seen dramatic changes within him. He can now: eat food on his own; grab and drink a
glass of water on his own (though half still ends up on his shirt); opens a faucet to wash his hands; put on and take off his own shoes; recognizes his own personal belongings; open a bottle of water; grab a pencil with his hand; he recognizes pictures of birds and animals; he
follows through with instructions given to him; he now uses limited Malayalam vocabulary words/phrases for “tea”, “brother”,
“auto-rickshaw”, “ball”, “I want”, “I don’t wan’t”, “crow”. Though he is still loud in his expressions, he likes to: play & learn with other kids; likes to sit with the other kids; will clasp his hands during prayer and watch others sing attentively; will listen and recognize his name being called; he will now point and touch the objects he wants/needs; will advise us (half of the time) when he needs to use the restroom; says goodbye when leaving for the day; recognizes the sounds of the school bus and voices of the school staff; he no longer makes random noises during class and has shown that he does not intend to hurt others despite his exaggerated movements.
Our biggest hurdles for him in the future is to reign-in and channel his energy in a more structured manner, build his voice articulation and get him to limit his over-exertion. We believe we can achieve great things with him in the coming months.

He has also told us about another lad, Vishnu, but you will have to wait for the next Tidings to hear about him!

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