The Upanayan Program
We follow systematic, structured programs to train children with developmental delay and intellectual disabilities. The Upanayan Program was developed by the Madhuram Narayanan Center, Chennai, and the other curriculums that we follow include the Madras Developmental Program Scale (MDPS) developed by Vijay Human Service, Chennai, and the Vocational Assessment and Programming System (VAPS) developed by the National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh.
The 0-6 year period in a child’s life – known as the formative period – is an absolutely crucial time for all children, more so for those with learning disabilities. Specialized Early Intervention programs have been developed (for toddlers at risk of development delay), which are designed to identify and meet a child’s needs in five developmental areas – physical, cognitive, communication, social and emotional, and sensory and adaptive. Each day, Special Educators teach the children individually and through group activities such as singing songs and rhymes, and story telling. The training also includes helping children reach individual goals set for them, and helping them become more articulate, mobile, and self-reliant. Each child’s performance is assessed at the end of each quarter and new goals are set for them to reach.
Early stimulation is critical for the healthy growth of every child’s body and mind. For the disabled child, it is a lot more difficult to experience and explore the world around her, so she needs extra care and special activities that provide easy and enjoyable ways to learn.
As these children are slow in learning to use their bodies, even simple activities such as lifting their heads, rolling, sitting, using their hands, standing, walking, talking, and other normal development activities have to be taught. So, we teach them these basic self-help techniques and when they stabilize, we move them to the Primary level.
The younger the child is when the stimulation program begins, the less retarded or delayed she will be when she is older.
We have a well-planned special learning program to help delayed children progress faster than they would without help.At this level, they are introduced to concepts of time, number, reading, writing, and problem solving.
We keep at an activity as long as it is fun for the children. When it stops being fun, we stop the activity for a while, or change it in some way, to put new excitement into it. We also encourage them to participate in sports and cultural activities according to their abilities.
Our vocational training unit – Prayatna (which means, ‘a good effort’) – provides sustained training and employment for residents above the age of 18, who have the ability and strength to undergo such training. The training also serves as a form of occupational therapy where the students learn to enjoy working, listening to the special educators, observing the demonstrations, honing their skills through various activities, and helping one another.
Prayatna provides an excellent opportunity for our children to engage, learn, work, interact, and become productive citizens of society.
Prayatna trains them in activities like book binding, and paper bag, envelope and candle making. They are trained to sort paper, count, stitch, paste, and cut. [Prayatna has partnered with Sampoorna – the outreach program of Good Shepherd Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Nungambakkam, Chennai, for the process of book binding.] Activities such as block printing, vermiculture, and opening a nursery garden are commencing soon. We are studying vocational options that would best suit our children’s abilities.