Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: To mark World Disability Day, Anchal Charitable Trust and Handicap International have launched a year-long project to rehabilitate mentally challenged children living in slums of North East and East Delhi.

Catering to the “special needs” of over 100 mentally challenged underprivileged kids including those suffering from mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism and down syndrome, the project will operate from the resource centre in the Jhilmil Industrial Area.

“At the resource centre we will have speech therapists, physiotherapists and educationists who will make these children confident and quick learners. The underprivileged children will receive special education and we will also identify parents and volunteers who are willing to undergo training in managing these children in divergent therapies. The idea is to make them skilled enough to pass on their expertise to other adults who want to methodically train them,” said Anchal Charitable Trust founder managing secretary Sanjeev Sheel at an interface of stakeholders working on disability issues with media.

As part of the project that intends to reach out to mentally challenged children acr-oss the city, an awareness dri-ve on rights and entitlements of persons with disabilities will also be launched in slums and re-settlement areas.

Pointing out that a year had passed since the United Nations Convention on the Right of People with Disability was ratified by India, Mr. Sheel said even though the XI Five Year Plan that has important provisions with respect to disability has been passed, no steps have been taken by the Government to implement them so far.

“People with mental disabilities are the worst sufferers as those in the corridor of power have failed in their duties to give them equal opportunities. They still have to face discrimination and indifferent treatment at every level of society. Though the State claims it has inclusive education in every school, the facts say something else. The reality is that education is just a dream for mentally challenged children in the country,” he said.

Clarifying that mental retardation was not a disease, Bal Adhikar Abhiyan convenor Sanjay Gupta said one cannot catch mental retardation from anyone. “Mental retardation is also not a type of mental illness like depression. Though there is no cure for mental retardation, most mentally challenged kids can learn to do many things. Signs of mental retardation include learning to talk later or have trouble speaking, finding it hard to remember things and cannot think logically. Eighty-seven per cent people with mental retardation will only be a little slower than average in learning new information and skills. But the remaining 13 per cent of them score below 50 on IQ tests. These persons will have more difficulty in school, at home and in the community.”