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A better future for less-blessed children

india Updated: May 18, 2008 12:57 IST

It is a take from the touching Hindi film 'Taare Zameen Par', but here it is not the reel world, but the real world.

A look around the sprawling complex of Manovikas Kendra in Kolkata for handicapped children would instill hope in parents who find it difficult to make a better future for their less-blessed wards.The special children here play, learn and find a new meaning to their lives.

Like Ishaan Awasthi, the protagonist of the film, many children suffer due to lack of diagnosis at the proper time.

From assessment, diagnosis and counselling to giving proper education and vocational training to children with disabilities, Manovikas provides solutions to problems faced by them.

Dr Sharada Fatepuria, the director-secretary of Manovikas, told PTI that the special children, after diagnosis at its out patients department, go through schooling and vocational training before they are rehabilitated in the mainstream.

"We want these special children to be respected by the society as equals and not looked at with pity," Fatepuria, who has brought up this institute from scratch, said.

After diagnosis of the nature of disability and its severity, a child is exposed to various types of therapeutic interventions like multisensory therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech-language therapy.

It also gives hydrotherapy, dance, music and yoga therapy in addition to taking care of the behavioural and emotional problems of the child, she said.

In the film, Ishaan, a dyslexic child with learning disability, was first recognised to have the disability by his art teacher Nikumbh Sir, a role played by star Aamir Khan.

And, it was then that the child's talent for painting was discovered by Aamir.

"Similarly, the nucleus of the institute is its centre for special schooling and symbolises our commitment to inclusive education," Fatepuria said.

"A child with such disability may find it difficult to study, but he may have other qualities which we try to emancipate," she added.

"These differently-able children have potential, which need guiding hands to blossom," said Fatepuria.

Manovikas Kendra, which is affiliated to the National Institute of Open Schooling for imparting secondary and senior secondary level education to its students, also provides vocational training.

"Children with moderate level of disability failing to cope with education, and assessed as trainable are put up in vocational trades like weaving, tailoring, bakery and confectionary, art and craft and laundry service," Fatepuria said.

Manovikas also offers home-based programme meant for those children who could not go to the institute regularly for therapeutic intervention and training, due to geographical distances.

The institute also plays a role in trying to find remedies for the ailments through Manovikas Biomedical Research and Diagnostic Centre and deals wih genetic basis of neurodevelopmental disorders.

It has been recognised as a scientific and industrial research organisation by the Government of India, she said.

Set up in 1974 and the first in eastern India, the institute now has two other centres in and around the metropolis.

A masters degree holder in psychology and a PHD in mental retardation, Fatepuria said "I got interested in doing something for these children when I chanced upon some of them in 1956 during a project for my MA degree.

"Coming from an industrialist family, money was not a problem and I used my contacts and friends to set up the institute at Abhinav Bharati School in 1974 in a modest way and as it grew, we shifted to this place in 1993."

A recipient of the 2008 Bharat Nirman Award in the field of 'Institute for the Handicapped', Manovikas has also received the national award in 2006 for outstanding contribution in the disability sector.

A non-profit organisation, the institute is equipped with the latest technologies and modern facilities, Fatepuria said adding that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment provides 25 per cent of its expenses.