Placing a paper over his mouth, S.Dhanaraj, a teacher at St. Louis School for the Deaf, Adyar, recites a series of words, gesturing to the class to identify them depending on whether the paper moves or not.
“When I say ‘Appa,' the paper moves, and that is how they know it is not ‘Amma' that I said,” explaining the technique of ‘Plosive words' and communicating words that cannot be differentiated by lip movements.
As Shanmughanathan (12), one of the twenty children, all with hearing and speaking disability, shouts out sounds, Mr. Dhanaraj, places a hand on his head, and the little boy immediately lowers his tone. “They have to be told when they are very loud. They hear almost nothing, hence remember and retain very less.”
For many special educators such as Dhanaraj, the last two months, spent without the curriculum being finalised, provided the much-needed time to identify the unique traits of their students and also figure out what training methodology would suit them. “But we are worried about the class X students, and are eagerly waiting for paper patterns. In the practical examinations to be introduced, students are expected to paste stuff. We might need extra training for that,” says S. Jayalakshmi, a special educator at a Chennai School in Santhome.
Preparations for the new curriculum are on in full swing in schools for children with disability “We are identifying teachers who communicate the best and fastest with students. What a student takes about an hour to understand, these students take three hours,” says Mr.Dhanaraj. Since the last two months were largely spent in oral teaching, the emphasis now has to shift to writing and testing. “Teachers are now sitting together to decide what audio notes need to prepared. It is not advisable to keep waiting for Braille books,” J. Selvarajan, coordinator, National Association for Blind, Sethubhaskaran Matriculation Higher Secondary School.
The Braille books, on the other hand, are being processed at a much higher speed than usual, but the volume of the new syllabus is much more, says I.Arivanandham, Regional Director, National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Poonamallee. To speed up the process, the Institute has outsourced transcription work to the Indian Association for Blind, Madurai, and will undertake the printing work only.
The delay is also because transcribing of Tamil and other regional languages is difficult for it is manual and requires professionals skilled in Tamil, English and Tamil typewriting, unlike that of English that is done using converter software. “We have employed a lot of students for proof reading,” says Mr.Arivanandham. “It might take about three more months for them to be ready. The class X books will be printed first, but as and when the other books get ready, we will start distributing them,” he says.
Disruption in power supply, he fears, would affect the printing. “Also since the machines require a specific temperature, we are running them for entire nights alone,” he adds. The trainers, say experts, will have refer to both the Braille and the normal text books this year, especially because the Braille books would not have diagrams or embossing. “They will have to use appropriate remedial therapy to help the students. It is testing times for them ,” Mr. Arivanandham adds.