Jaya Krishnaswamy

Retirement brought with it a new beginning for Jaya Krishnaswamy, when she co-founded the country’s first institution devoted to early intervention for children with developmental delays and mental challenges — Madhuram Narayanan Centre for Exceptional Children (MNC), in 1989. MNC has since helped thousands of challenged children, with parents heading to MNC from across the country and beyond. MNC has also successfully trained teachers and helped set up many special schools in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. “If developmental delays are spotted early on, early intervention can yield positive results,” she says. Therapy at MNC is built around Upanayan (meaning leading by hand), a system developed by Jaya in the mid-1980s. Upanayan provides early intervention by continuous evaluation and training of challenged children aged zero to six years, in around 850 specific skills. This approach has been found to be more effective than a general approach. MNC also strongly believes in the participation of parents, who are trained to become their child’s co-therapists at school and a carry-over agent in training the child at home. Right now, she is concentrating on integrating such children into the mainstream and advocating the passing of the revised Persons with Disability Act. “This will bring in a rights-based approach to disability, and a barrier (social/environmental) free environment.” As for societal attitudes towards disability, she says, “While there is awareness now, there is still not sensitivity and acceptance.”