OFFBEAT An Association in the city brings out the creative side of special children
“They never leave things around, and put everything back in their place. They are also particular about routine and adhering to time. The only thing is whatever they do takes a little more time,” says Lakshmi Sundar, founder of D S Special Children Welfare Association.
The Association's brochure shows a jackfruit cut in half, and reads ‘Nature always keeps the sweetest part inside, like our special children'. Its workshop is bright even on a hazy morning, and the students behind wooden handlooms and spinning wheels are chatty, while their proud parents talk in whispers: “See how she's making the mat,” “Look, he's not moving from his seat at all.”
“We were working at the Down's Syndrome Association of Tamil Nadu for many years with our own children. After the children crossed 20, they saw their siblings earn and wanted to earn too. So, about five of us, all parents of children with Down's Syndrome thought we could just start an Association, where they can learn to produce something, earn, and be independent,” says Lakshmi.
The Association, formed in 2005, produces mopping cloth, kitchen towels, door mats, areca cups, agarbathis, scented pouches, jute wallets and handbags, key chains, mirrors, pens, bracelets and jewellery sets, among others.
“Our Association takes in slow learners, the mentally challenged and those with Down's Syndrome and Microsyphilis, aged above 18. There is a doctor on call, and a special education teacher who assesses these students before they join us. People should realise that these children can take care of themselves and have no behavioural problems,” Mahalakshmi Thiagarajan, another parent, explains.
About 20 special students are part of the Association now, and are imparted vocational skills.
“Most of the work that they do here depends on their mood,” says Lakshmi. Adds Mahalakshmi: “If they get bored, they just shift to something else.”
The Association fares only through donations and profits made from selling the products. “We pay these students about Rs. 500 every month for their expenditure. A special instructor teaches them Maths and basic information about themselves,” says Lakshmi.
“We haven't exactly approached any retail outlets to sell our products because we can't have deadlines since the students take time to make them. We distribute them in our neighbourhood, and hold occasional sale. Temples sometimes place bulk orders a few months in advance. In such cases, we are able to work something out,” Mahalakshmi points out.
For details, call 94453-30617.