Students trained in product identification, money management

A question mark has always hovered around the employment of mentally challenged adults with relatively low I.Q.

But persons with mental retardation (MR) can become economically independent with the right training as Hope Special School, Tiruvanaikoil, has set out to prove by launching a shop exclusively managed by persons with MR.

The store stocked with snacks, chocolates, and pooja items also offers doormats, garlands, phenyl, and costume jewellery prepared by 46 occupants of the school. Besides being a venue to market self-made merchandise, the shop would be instrumental in occupational rehabilitation of mentally challenged, hopes T.K.S. Senthilkumar, founder, Anbalayam, mother concern.

“The ultimate goal is to ensure mentally retarded are economically self-reliant. Either they can be employed as shop assistants or with assistance of parents establish a shop in their neighbourhood,” he explains. The shop would expand to include grocery items in the future, he added.

Persons with mental retardation struggle to identify and label objects. “Though we have taught functional skills like making small purchases and making calculations, the shop would provide students with practical exposure,” says M.Jenova Arasi, correspondent, Hope Special School. While moderate MR can be trained to fetch objects and carry out instructions, mild MR can keep accounts.

Though only MR adults would be managing the shop with assistance from a non-disabled person, children would be introduced first-hand to basic concepts like money management, says Ms. Jenova. Students with autistic features can learn differentiation and identification of products through sight and smell. On Friday, at the opening of the shop, students were able to calculate price and hand out ordered goods.

M. Latha, zonal chairperson, Srirangam, inaugurating the store, offered assistance in linking with department stores in the region to market products made by the special school.

R.Shyamala, Differently Abled Welfare Officer, presided over the meeting and asked parents of mentally retarded to avail of loans offered without interest by the State government.