For S. Rameela, mother of a child with special needs, the day care centre run inside Special Needs Park near Lotus Tank on Alagarkoil Road brings great relief. “I am at peace while carrying out household chores and other miscellaneous tasks without having to worry about my son, as he spends time from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the centre,” she said.
Ms. Rameela said she was able to see significant improvement in her son, as he was engaged in creative activities and occupied, which was very essential. “Tending to him throughout the day is a very challenging task when the centre closes on weekends,” she said.
“It brings together special children and their parents under one roof, like a community,” said A. Chandrasekaran, managing trustee of Madurai Group Living Foundation (MGLF), which has been managing the park since its inception in July 2017.
“The centre, probably the only one in the city, was started keeping in mind the parents, especially working and single parents, who can have a trusted place to leave their children when they have to go out on some work, during emergencies or even when they have to take some time off their routine,” said Mr. Chandrasekaran. More often, it was the mother who took the major responsibility of taking care of the special child, he noted.
“Currently, we have about 15 children visiting the centre daily. Some of them are autistic, children with cerebral palsy, attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or down syndrome,” said M. Poonkodi, the special educator.
She said the children were offered speech and vocational therapy, during which they were taught to make mats and incense sticks. A physiotherapist visited the centre thrice a week.
The mother of a four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy said, “I have been coming here with my daughter every day since its inception. Her eye-hand coordination has improved significantly. She even communicates with gestures asking for water and food, which shows we have come a long way.”
All the services offered for a meagre monthly fee was a boon for them, said the mothers. “Most parents are often happy with improvement in speech and in tolerance of sitting for prolonged time in their children,” said Ms. Poonkodi.
Plans were afoot to make it a full-time care centre, where parents could leave their wards at night as well, said Mr. Chandrasekaran.