Super six

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OVERCOMING ODDS The six children from Vidyasagar
OVERCOMING ODDS The six children from Vidyasagar

Six special kids came out with flying colours in the SSLC exams. Here's how they made it

With the dazzling flash causing an unsettling contraction of muscles, it takes Bhavana quite an effort to pose for the camera. She is strapped to a wheelchair and an adjustment of a lever makes her sit upright. As she tries to smile for the shutter, the strain on her face is palpable. But Bhavana's heart is filled with an exultant happiness and she basks in the glory that her SSLC performance has brought her. Bhavana is one of six children from Vidyasagar who have passed the SSLC examination, securing First Class. An extra one-hour and a scribe were the only concessions these special children were given. They had to take their exams at another school - it happened to be Sarada Vidyalaya in T. Nagar - just as normal kids are most of the time required to. No sooner had the results been published than Lady Andal offered the super six admission to its higher secondary courses.While Bhavana (71 per cent), Gnanaprasana (65 per cent), Pavithra (85.5 per cent), Harisangar (81 per cent) and Rajagopal (62 per cent) have cerebral palsy and grapple with multiple disabilities, Shiva (73 per cent) is autistic. When Shiva walked into the hall without his Walkman, he was doing the unimaginable. The boy generally requires vestibular stimulation to stay focussed, especially when he is using the word chart to make his answers known. These children's preparations for the exams were characterised by unique methods aimed at circumventing their specific disabilities. Gnanaprasana suffers from coloboma iris, a cause of "decreased visual acuity". GP (as she is fondly called at Vidyasagar) can read only if the letters are in big fonts. Further compounding GP's problem is her "lazy" right eye. Harishangar's eyeballs keep shifting all the time. He, therefore, listens to tapes to study. Rajagopal's parents read out the lessons to him twice or thrice before they become part of his memory. While Pavithra, Gnanaprasana, Rajagopal and Harishangar `spoke out' their answers to their scribes, Shiva and Bhavana `pointed them out'. Shiva used his fingers to do so and Bhavana, who is non-verbal and has hands that can't be put to any practical application, had to use her eyes. In this regard, Bhavana is said to be without an equal in the whole of India. Her eye-pointing method requires a chart where the alphabet is in four groups. Each group or column contains six letters. The letters `Y' `Z' form an odd group. In the regular group, the letters are numbered in the ascending order (1 to 6). At the bottom of the chart, numbers 1 to 6 are lined up. To pick out the right letter, Bhavana first directs her gaze at a column and then a number. She repeats the process until the right word or sentence is formed. Meenkashi, scribe for Bhavana for the last two years, took her time getting used to this novel method. "The first exam I scribed for Bhavana was a disaster. I helped her score a `zero'." However, Meenakshi quickly figured out where she was going wrong. On her part, Bhavana realised she had to "keep her thought process under control" and to go slow on the answers. PRINCE FREDERICK




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