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Challenges of a different kind

Last updated: 23 September, 2011

Helping hands

You want to do something good, everything falls into place. Having this belief and with a combined experience of over 100 years in a voluntary organization, six individuals come together to start a school for special children âAashianaa,â only to find that much more can be done, writes N Niranjan Nikam

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude" - Scott Hamilton.

“Their smile is million dollar, handshakes warm and greetings genuine. After all they are ‘special,’ in every which way.

The world had come crashing down on Fazilath Yahya when her daughter Aysha Nuha (now 13), met with an accident and suffered head injury. The child was only one year old then.

With not a trace of bitterness or regret on her face, Fazilath said, “My daughter went into a coma, her speech was affected. We took her to the Vedavati Clinic associated with M V Shetty Speech and Hearing hospital in Manipal. Later, we brought her to Mysore and I took a training in ‘Certificate Course for Caregivers of Children with Development Disability,’ also called C4D2 at All Indian Institute of Speech and Hearing (Aiish).”

The beginning
This was the time when six persons Siraj Asgar Ali, M S A Khuraishi, Seshadri Loknath, C M Subramanian, Sridhar Kumar Bhagavat and D Viswanath, all with years of experience in a voluntary organisation decided to start a school for special children which they named Aashianaa.

“We went to Aiish and met the then director late Vijayalakshmi Basavaraj, Dr Shamala and Dr Venkatesh who gave good guidance, encouragement and support,” said Siraj the president of Aashianaa, a charitable trust.

After careful analysis and research, they identified areas in Mysore city where such cases are more in number, the reasons being poor economic conditions due to which medical care has not been possible during pre-natal stages or other infections during pregnancy.
It is also believed that heredity or consanguine marriages plays a strong role in arresting a child’s mental development, they found.

“Hence, we decided to start the school in Udaygiri where a large number of such mentally challenged children live,” said Siraj.

To start a school and even funds is not such a problem but how to run it was the biggest challenge.

“This was the time when we came in contact with Fazilath, who herself has a special child. This was god-send to us. She is now the principal of the school. Because, we were warned that well qualified people will not stick with us for long. Two or three of them came and within three months all of them left for better opportunities,” he said. As soon as a child seeks admission, he or she is sent for evaluation at Aiish and based on the findings and guidance they are admitted to the school.

“As in the other nearly 13 special education schools in the city, we also insist on parents accompanying the child and spending time with it in the school. Invariably, it is the mothers who accompany the child,” said Siraj.

At present there are 20 children with various problems like cerebral palsy, down syndrome, mentally retarded, autism who are learning self help skills.
To make children independent

“The whole idea is to make the children as independent as possible. In fact there is one woman whose both children are severely mentally retarded. Still she brings them to the school,” said Fazilath.

A charitable school like this is always on the look out for volunteers and specially doctors. A few of them like physician Dr Javed Naeem visits regularly to check up the kids.
Other specialists who devote their time are speech therapists Dr Anirudh, Dr Indira Nair and physiotherapist Dr T E Raghavendra.

The JSS Institute of Speech and Hearing will also send their students to the school, said Siraj. The children participate in all programmes and they have won a lot of prizes, he said.

The future plan is to move into our own premises, increase the strength to 100 students which was one of the aims of our trustee Khuraishi, who was a pillar of strength, but is no more, as he passed away last year, said Siraj.

Contributions can be send to aashianaa@gmail.com and for details visit the website www.ashianaa.org.

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