Event highlights talent of differently abled children

NGO provides a platform to parents and teachers of children with developmental disabilities

Kalaangana, an annual cultural event for special needs children was held from November 19 to 21, at Makkala Koota, a park in Chamarajpet and Vidya Vihara Hall, Shankarapura. The event was organised by Information and Resource Centre (IRC), a non-profit under the banner of Sharada Peetam, Sringeri, that works towards educating and supporting people with developmental disabilities such as autism, learning disabilities and cerebral palsy.
“Almost 80 out of 1,000 children who are born are affected by some sort of a disability. The numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, in India, and particularly in south India, awareness about these disabilities is very low. As a result, parents with
differently abled children become overwhelmed,” shares V R Ramesh, head of IRC.
With proper guidance and the right tools, these disabilities can be managed, and with the intention of creating this awareness, IRC was established in 2006.

Kalaangana was conceived in 2007 with the objective of bringing out talents and hidden abilities of differently abled individuals within the age group of 4 to 18 in different areas such as painting, yoga, music, dance and fancy dress. “Children in mainstream school have a plethora of opportunities, but that’s not the case with these children. They might be immensely talented, but they didn’t have a platform,” he says. “Often, they don’t even know what they are doing, but it makes their teachers and parents so happy to see them make that small step. That joy rubs off on these kids, as well.”

It started out as a one-day festival, but due to the tremendous response, they decided to expand it to a three-day festival. “Over time, we decided to give the teachers and parents of children with disabilities a platform to showcase their talents. We also offer a ‘Best Teacher’ award to committed teachers every year, as well as a ‘Lifetime Contribution’ award to individuals who have dedicated their lives to this cause,” he says. This year, the receipient of the award was Dr Surekha Ramachandran, president of the Down Syndrome Society of India. They also bring in adults with disabilities, who have managed to enter the mainstream society, to come in as a role model to the young children. 

Students from about 75 schools in the city, as well as schools from Mysuru, Chennai and Tumkur, take part in the event. 

However, organising this programme is not without challenges. “Most of these children cannot communicate. Managing them, especially since there are nearly 700 children participating, is a big challenge.” They start planning three months in advance and get volunteers to ensure smooth sailing. They even take suggestions from participating schools to improve upon the event. “It takes a lot of time and effort to plan this. It is the joy in these children’s faces that motivates us. Thankfully, we have donors who help us in our efforts,” he shares. 

Work at IRC

“Our intention is to gather information from all possible sources we know, be it a medical intervention, training programmes, therapies, or child assessment. Whenever a child or a parent comes to us, we try to guide them, no matter what they need,” he shares. They have created a directory all such services across India, called ‘Lighthouse’.

The also run ‘Deepika’,  a school for special children. The institution has been recognised by the government of Karnataka under the ‘Women and childcare’ department. They have also registered with the rehabilitation counsellor for India, and run their diploma programmes. They conduct music-based therapy and art-based therapy. They also work with the Down Syndrome Society.

 

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