“Right kind of support and positive attitude can help anyone achieve his or her maximum potential”
Radhika Chand is a 40-year-old art teacher at a senior school who recently sold one of her paintings in Mumbai and bought herself a Reva car with the money. Born with Down Syndrome, this talented artist, according to her peers at Vasant Valley School here, is an example of how a differently-abled person can be integrated productively with society’s workforce.
“Radhika has been in the school for over a decade-and-a-half. She is a good artist and a dedicated teacher. Above all, she is an example for the parents whose differently-abled children study here. Through her they realise that given the right kind of support and a positive attitude they can help any person achieve his or her maximum potential,” says Vasant Valley School’s special section head Sushmita Mitra, showing off the striking abstract art painting that Radhika gifted to her recently.
“I love black colour,” says Radhika, who confides that teaching senior students is no easy task. “They just don’t listen. I will quit next year,” she laughs, hugging Ms. Mitra who tells us that Radhika has been threatening to quit forever “but we love her too much to let her go”.
Radhika’s ability to lead a life of dignity is what the parent of any differently-abled child aspires for their child, notes School Principal Rekha Krishnan.
“Through our experience of working with children with special needs, we have learnt a very important lesson -- giving adequate infrastructural support is only half the battle won. Providing the right attitude and sensitivity is what really matter,” says Ms. Krishnan.
The school, which has been rated as among the best private institutes in the city offering integrated education to the differently-abled children, has 54 special needs children in their institution.
“Our school has all the required infrastructure to support children with special needs in terms of ramps, special toilets, therapy classes, special teachers, counselling for parents and constant monitoring of the programme with the parents. Almost all the parents who come to us are very aware of the facilities or the lack of it available to differently-abled children in the city. They seek admission in our school basically to help their children become as self-reliant as possible. Having differently-abled children in our school has never been looked upon as a challenge,” says Ms. Krishnan.
Pointing out that it is not just infrastructure and staff that is needed to help integrate children who are differently-abled, head of junior school Rekha Bakshi says: “It is the general public’s mindset that needs to change about people with special needs. For our children here, since these differently-abled students are their friends from junior school onwards, they grow up as people who have an open mind to those who are not conventionally able. There is an acceptance and awareness about the issue which is also where the real solution to the problem lies. Having differently-abled children in school has worked well for everyone as it is a symbiotic relationship that we often see here.”