Diving, rock climbing, trekking this summer, for the differently abled

May 17th, 2009 - 10:54 am ICT by IANS  

By Prerna Sodhi
New Delhi, May 17 (IANS) Nothing’s going to stop a clutch of children who are visually handicapped or have multiple disabilities from going diving, trekking and even rock climbing this summer.

What’s more, they will do so in the company of children without disabilities at special camps. All this is part of efforts by various institutions across India to bring disabled children into the mainstream of society and create awareness about them.

Taking a lead in this direction is Miracles Home and Research Trust, an institute in Kolkata that caters to children with behavioural problems and multiple disabilities.

For the first time, this summer they have introduced pool diving classes for nine children with behavioural disorders. The classes started April 10 and will end Aug 15.

According to Abhay Kriplani, a graphologist - a branch of psychology in which a child can be analysed through handwriting - the institute organises many activities that help children manage their disabilities.

“After we got a good response from the children when they were taught swimming last summer, we got many requests to start something a bit adventurous. So this was planned. The response so far has been good,” Kriplani told IANS.

Last year, a pool was specially designed for the children. So this time, they just added a four-foot high diver board.

In this venture, the institute received help from Punjab Club in Kolkata, which apart from providing life-saving tubes and arm-pads, also sent trained volunteers and divers.

Kriplani said that they have ensured that the teacher-child ratio is 1:1. “This is why we have divided the nine students into three batches that are supervised by at least five trained swimmers.”

The trust is making an effort towards mainstreaming children with disabilities like attention deficit hyperactive disorder (a neurobehavioural developmental disorder that is characterised by a persistent pattern of impulsiveness and inattention), autism, mental retardation and Aspergers syndrome (a person who finds social interaction difficult).

Apart from swimming classes, the institute had earlier organised “animal therapy”, especially involving Labradors, with the aim to improve the physical, social and emotional functioning of the child.

But diving is not the only adventure sport these children are learning this summer.

A special camp is on the cards for visually challenged students for eight days of rock climbing and trekking.

“We are working towards a goal to mainstream these children. That’s why we are including regular children as well. This will help us sensitise them towards these special children,” said Tara Johar, who is in charge of the camp that will be held in Nainital, Uttarakhand.

Johar, who works at the Aurobindo Ashram, the organisers of the camp, said 25 children from the National Institute of Visually Handicapped (NIVH) would be part of the programme. NIVH is a government-run Dehradun-based school-cum-college for visually challenged children. It is the largest in India.

Its principal Kamalpreet Singh said: “I am visually challenged but I have done trekking. I realise such activities instil confidence in students. Society has to understand that given an opportunity these children are equally competent.”

Five teachers would be escorting the children. The camp is scheduled for June 24 to July 1.

The Handicapped Welfare Federation in New Delhi has organised Integrated Art classes for their children with hearing and speech impairment and behavioural disabilities.

“The classes include regular children and special children. In fact the group activities here have helped many regular students to understand the life of these differently abled children,” says Tara Negi, the teacher in charge of the programme. The art classes started May 4 and will continue till the end of this month.

The differently abled children are looking forward to some exciting time.

“I am very enthusiastic and excited to go into the forest and hills and trek. It just makes me feel I am no different and can do what everyone can do,” said Kush, who is visually impaired.

Simran Padam, a psychologist and special educater in VIBGYOR High, a school for special children in Pune, said: “A recreative environment always helps in a big way. Children that are differently abled get an opportunity to interact socially and form bonds and show their talent which might have been overlooked because of over-emphasis on their disablity.

“It also helps children without disabilities to appreciate and accept differences and prepare them to look at everyone with an equal eye.”

(Prerna Sodhi can be contacted at prernasodhi.04@gmail.com)

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