Downtown

Four decades of service to mentally-challenged

Vijay Human Service at K K Nagar. Photo : R. Ravindran.   | Photo Credit: R RAVINDRAN

When these children were rejected by schools stating behavioural problems or low IQ, this institute took them in. When the companies denied them jobs later, this institute helped them find a suitable occupation. Vijay Human Service was started as a psychology clinic, but a non-inclusive education system was reason enough to turn it into a special school for mentally challenged children.

And the man behind the initiative was Prof. P. Jeyachandran, a psychologist.

As a research scholar in crime, Jeyachandran would visit juvenile courts. A case pertaining to a ten-year-old mentally challenged girl made him turn to the subject. “The girl had landed up in Chennai but when we asked her where she came from, she could only say Charminar. With little to go by we managed to return her to the family. It was this success story that made me look at mental disability as a field for study,” says this resident of Royapettah.

He went on to create the first scale in India to access people with mental retardation. He can also be credited with creating an individualised education programme for these children, which now many special schools follow.

“When we started, there were hardly any special schools or special educators in India. We had just one teachers’ training institute in Bombay, which didn’t touch the subject of handling mentally challenged children. There was no curriculum for special educators. To counter this problem, I prepared a curriculum and presented it to a committee formed by the Education Department and in 1977 it was gazetted. The curriculum was taken by UNICEF and Federation for the Welfare of Mentally Retarded,” he adds.

With the setting up of the Rehabilitation Council of India, the curriculum was revised. Now every three years, the syllabus is updated based on scientific development in the field. The Council also used the curriculum to create BEd and MEd programmes for special education.

“Over 98 per cent of the curriculum is imported from developed countries, because they are pioneers in the field. But the only thing we exported was usage of Yoga as a therapeutic agent,” says Jeyachandran.

Vijay Human Service in its over four decades of service has had a zero rejection policy. The fee is also adjusted according to parents’ paying capacity.

Along with following the founder’s curriculum, the institute also offers a different kind of vocational training. “I don’t believe in teaching these students candle-making, cup-making, weaving or stitching. These may be easy to do, but the products are unmarketable and students end up begging others to buy them. I insist on parents identifying a proper job for the students. We help them get hired and ensure they stick to it. On-the-job learning is the focus here,” he adds.


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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 9:34:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/four-decades-of-service-to-mentallychallenged/article6751457.ece

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