In 1999, three women who were involved in special education decided to break off from what they were doing, to start a special school of their own. When Lakshmi Krishna Kumar, Sulata Ajit and Subhashini Rao set about realising their idea, they went the whole hog to provide holistic care for children with special needs through improving their ability to learn and helping them succeed in their pursuits.

The package that they put together came to be called Sankalp, and it was set in a little niche on 6th Avenue, Anna Nagar. “The three of us started it as a school for children with learning disability. At the time, there were no such facilities in Anna Nagar area. A ‘special needs’ centre also sprung up under the same roof and after two years we had to shift this to a different place in order to take care of all the children,” says Ms. Rao, who also serves as Director (Administration) at Sankalp.

Currently, Sankalp caters to two distinct groups of disabilities — learning disability or dyslexia (The Open School), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (The Learning Centre) — at separate premises in Anna Nagar.

The Open School has one teacher for seven or eight children. “Sometimes, this can also be two for seven or eight children in a group. The groups are not homogeneous in terms of age or class, but rather even in terms of ability of children,” Ms. Krishna Kumar, director (learning disability), explained.

The syllabus is an amalgam drawn from different boards of education, only Sankalp has an eclectic approach to it. Children are trained through multi-sensory teaching and are periodically evaluated for their skill levels. They appear for examinations under the National Open School programme, and so far, three batches have already passed and 14 children have gone on to enter mainstream colleges.

The Learning Centre provides intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, right from early identification to speech therapy and occupational therapy, apart from the academic curriculum, says Ms. Ajit, director (special educator).

For both these centres, the emphasis is on reading/spelling, writing and comprehension, study skills, thinking and reasoning. A substantial component of the curriculum is extra-curricular activities, .

Since Sankalp pays a great deal of attention to training programmes, for parents, teachers and helpers, in its 10th year, it has decided to organise Learn 2010, an international seminar to be held at Taj Connemara on March 5 and 6. The seminar will focus on inclusive practices for students with special needs and heads of mainstream schools have been invited. William L. Hewards, professor emeritus, Ohio State University and Jill C. Dardig, professor emeritus, Ohio Dominican University, will be the key speakers.

For the first time in 10 years, Sankalp is organising a fund-raiser to be held on March 7 at Mutha Venkatasubba Rao auditorium. At least 15 students who are unable to pay for their tuition receive sponsorship to continue their education. A musical presentation by Bombay Jayashri will be held to raise funds for the organisation, and this will be followed by a dinner sponsored by Oriental Cuisines.

For details, contact 26182588.