Challenging Time For Children With Special Needs

Kids feel frustrated as schedule goes haywire after lockdown came into effect

By Jayanthi Pawar

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The lockdown to stop spread of coronavirus has got most of us climbing walls and the going is especially tough for children with special needs, who are lodged in homes and centres. Children with development delays, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy and autism need special attention round the clock. They need help with day-to-day activities. But, due to the lockdown the entire schedule has gone haywire and children and finding it hard to adapt, say special educators. “They find it difficult to understand change in routine and why they cannot go for walks or play outside and hug the tutors,” said V Rakesh Sharma, a special tutor.

Teaching them to wash hands and maintain social distancing is a tough task. “We introduced these concepts as fun activities. First they would not listen and understand. Then, we started drawing circles and wrote their names and asked them to stand in it. Though, they do not understand the concept, they look at it as a game,” he added.

Speaking about different methods educators are adapting, V Rakesh Sharma said normally it takes about three months for the special children to understand. “For instance, it takes three months to understand the colour red. In this learning phase, it takes even more time to understand why their routine has changed. We also engage them with indoor activities like gardening, other board games, helping in the kitchen including segregating vegetables and grocery items

Another challenge is that they are familiar with one tutor and when there is a change it takes time for them to accept it,” he added. To bridge this gap, the children are connecting with tutors via video calls. Another concern is once life returns to normalcy, the routine will again be disrupted and it would take at least another two months for them to cope. Mumtaj, another special tutor working at a home that caters to children with special needs said I am able to visit the home only twice a week due to lack of transportation.

“Though, I try to connect with the children online, they tend to get upset and are finding it difficult to cope with changes,” she added. But, most of the tutors ensure they find innovative methods and tasks to engage the children. Another pressing issue is finding donors. Dr V Nagarani, managing trustee, Hope Public Charitable Trust says currently there are about 55 children with special needs and who do not have families. “We had eight special educators, but now we provide a vehicle and only bring in two every alternate day

Apart from that, we have four staff who stay at the centre, to look after the children. The main issues are transportation for staff and financial constraints. Donations and funds have almost stopped, but through reserves and support from relatives we have been able to manage,” added Dr.V.Nagarani. Meanwhile, the State has started providing kits to centres to help children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) access therapeutic training.

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