Parents start online petition for more occupational therapists in Tamil Nadu government schools

A file photograph of an occupational therapy session at a primary school in Coimbatore. Photograph used for representational purposes only.

A file photograph of an occupational therapy session at a primary school in Coimbatore. Photograph used for representational purposes only.   | Photo Credit: K. Ananthan


Lack of therapists in schools leaves parents of children with special educational needs travelling long distances and spending huge sums on therapy

It was to address the need for occupational therapists that forced B. Dhanya Vardhini to start an online petition to attract the Chief Minister’s attention. “I am a parent of a special needs child who really wants to make a change in our child’s life. We rely on therapies and in order to get good quality therapy we travel 40 km daily,” she wrote. Over 25,000 parents have signed her petition so far.

Ms. Dhanya lives in Guduvanchery and travels two hours daily to T. Nagar for therapy for her 7-year-old son who is on the autism spectrum. “He is mildly autistic. In mainstream schools, he doesn’t get therapy. We take him to different places for speech, occupational therapy and special education,” she said.

She moved from Thoothukudi to Chennai as the school there offered only a fortnightly therapy session. “A small primary school in an interior area accepted him but branded schools did not want him,” she said.

Shanthi’s* only concern too, was to find a school that would accept her son who has autism. The government school in Medavakkam did. “The teachers have accepted him as he is,” she said.

The Medavakkam school is among the few to have special educators. But the therapists are required to visit many schools leaving little room for the dedicated training that students require.

When Thamaraiselvi moved from Coimbatore to Chennai she thought better facilities would be available for her moderately autistic, hyperactive 8-year-old son. As no school offered personal attention, this resident of Perungalathur travels to Thoraipakkam for special education classes. “We need an occupational therapist, a speech therapist and special educators. In Coimbatore everything was under one roof. I spend Rs. 30,000 a month on therapies alone,” she said.

The State government, when it decided to appoint an occupational therapist in every district headquarters hospital’s psychiatry department, designated them as technicians in low pay grades. As a result, only 11 of 18 posts were filled, pointed out a therapist.

P. Raghuram, convener of the Tamil Nadu branch of All India Occupational Therapists’ Association said, "We expect to get a council for OT by this year. We have urged college principals to register their graduates. In the next few years, each school will definitely have OTs. We are also trying to get the government to designate us as therapists,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:25:16 AM |

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