Speech therapy centre under police scanner for tying up three-year-old child

Civil society organisations call for regulations to be implemented to monitor therapy centres in the State

September 10, 2023 10:17 pm | Updated 10:17 pm IST

The Egmore police are investigating a complaint by a man alleging that his three-year-old child was tortured at a private speech therapy centre in the city.

A senior police officer said Faiz Nawaz, a resident of Ajeez Street in Thousand Lights, had enrolled his three-year-old son for speech treatment at a speech therapy centre over six months ago. Last Thursday, when his father Amjad Khan went to pick up the child, he was shocked to find him crying with his hands and legs tied up.

Following this, Mr. Nawaz lodged a complaint against three persons of the speech therapy centre. The police have issued a community service register (CSR) and are investigating.

Calls for regulations

From 2020, Civil society organisations, such as Disability Rights Alliance (DRA), have been calling for regulations to be implemented to monitor therapy centres, similar to ones framed in Kerala. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act requires the appropriate government “to take measures to protect persons with disabilities from all forms of abuse, violence, and exploitation and to prevent the same, shall — (a) take cognisance of incidents of abuse, violence, and exploitation and provide legal remedies available against such incidents; (b) take steps for avoiding such incidents and prescribe the procedure for its reporting.”

Subsequently, the Tamil Nadu government commissioned a research study, carried out by the Public Health Foundation of India’s Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad, based on which guidelines were to be framed to monitor therapy centres across the State.

The study’s findings were handed over to the government towards the end of November 2021. The Directorate for the Welfare of Persons with Disabilities has so far not acted on the submitted situational analysis, strategy development, and the rules for the minimum standards for the registration of rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities in Tamil Nadu.

“As parents, the absence of regulations for therapy and rehabilitation centres for children with disabilities raises grave concerns. This has to be done at the earliest by the Disability Welfare Department so that there are proper rules in place for centres to be given the licence to operate and work with children,” said Gopinath Ramakrishnan, trustee, Special Child Assistance Network (SCAN).

Some workarounds

He said while centres often did not allow parents into the therapy rooms stating that children could get distracted, this could be addressed through CCTV cameras or one-way glasses so that parents could observe the sessions. “This does not just address concerns of abuse that could happen, but is also needed for parents to be aware of how therapy sessions work, so they can replicate them at home and continue working on the welfare of their children,” he explained.

Parents, he said, should be told the objectives of the therapy, the time needed for it, and be regularly updated on its status. “Good centres will encourage parents to get involved and stay updated. It is also imperative that parents stay aware of the qualifications of the therapists, and how the centres function,” Mr. Gopinath added.

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