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Inspired by Taare..., classes for autistic children

The BMC plans to start 12 classrooms in Mumbai's 1,188 civic-run schools for students in the 6-16 age group from the coming academic year.
Hindustan Times | By Sayli Udas Mankikar, Mumbai
UPDATED ON APR 13, 2008 04:08 PM IST

Call it the Taare Zameen Par effect. Taking a cue from Darsheel Safary’s character, Ishaan, who has a learning disability in the movie, the civic body plans to start 12 classrooms in the city’s 1,188 civic-run schools from the coming academic year, ie, 2008-09.

Municipal Commissioner Jairaj Phatak approved a proposal that Mayor Shubha Raul had sent to him last week, according to which the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will set up dedicated classrooms — four each in the island city, eastern and western suburbs — for students in the six-16 age group with learning disabilities.

“Several parents of children with disorders like autism and dyslexia have met me since the release of Taare Zameen Par. They didn’t realise that their children were suffering,” said Raul. “While dyslexic students can study in normal schools, we found that autistic students need to be trained differently and that an early diagnosis is crucial.”

So Raul got in touch with a Santacruz-based group of parents of autistic children to take action.

“We found that about 80,000 children or one of every 150 children in Mumbai is autistic. And we have no special schools for them,” said Raul.

The group, which runs private schools for autistic students, has now promised to help the BMC set up special classrooms in civic schools. Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Education) S.S. Shinde confirmed the move.

“We are seeing how many autistic students need help and will accordingly set up the classrooms,” said Shinde. “We will then devise a study pattern and get specially trained teachers.”

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