Sheila Rao, mother of a 30-year-old mentally-challenged man is proud that her son now leads a happy, fulfilling life. She recalled how doctors had scornfully called her son ‘defective’ and how she proved them otherwise.

Ms. Sheila Rao said he now worked at the National Institute for Mentally Handicapped and was passionate about yoga.

She was speaking at the Open Forum during the 18th International Children’s Film Fest India at the Prasad’s Multiplex on Tuesday. Mentally-challenged children often had a deep sense of alienation and inadequacy because others would not interact with them. This attitude of society had led to behavioural problems in them, she said.

Ms. Sheila Rao, who involves herself in helping special children, explained how she conducted skits, plays and other activities in her neighbourhood where her son had actively participated, and how it helped him bridge the gap and make friends.

“I never differentiated between my daughter and son. He had to make his own bed and clean his room. I even assigned him certain chores and errands. That imbibed in him a sense of self-worth and individuality,” she pointed out.

Children’s Film Society of India vice-chairperson Kavita Anand said films were a medium with wide-reaching influence and they should portray children with special needs in a positive role. Director Ayodhya Kumar recalled how he had come across visually-impaired children while researching for a film.

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