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Thursday, March 13, 2014

a volunteer speaks

              AIKYA : The centre to integrate the different

My mom has been associated with special needs children for over 12 years now. Having spent quality time with them, i knew it would be difficult to handle them all by myself. As i walked from Ramarishna mission towards AIKYA it unnerved me. I wondered "how should i react?", "how should i behave?", how do i interact with them?", "How do i reach out to them?". With all these questions swirling in my head i pushed open the creaky old black gate of the school and entered. Lost in my doubts i was caught by surprise when a bunch of 7 kids greeted me "hello Akka!". I stood there for a moment unable to comprehend my next move so i simply smiled and waved out to them ( In my head i silently did a face palm).

Before I start giving you details about the daily routine of this school i'll take this opportunity to tell you a little about AIKYA and the students there. AIKYA is a non profit organisation managed by Ms Parvathy Viswanath which promotes the interest and welfare of children with autism, ADHD, down syndrome and specific learning disability. Yes, there's a lot of fight involved in training these kids as they display short attention span, impaired social interaction, hyperactive and stereotype behaviour but No, it doesn't pain us or we don't sympathise with them because they aren't to be pitied upon. Believe me when i say this that what one does as a volunteer or a teacher is nothing compared to the impact these kids have on your life. In fact it gives us great joy to see that whatever hardwork we put in has made a small difference. "The outcome is always greater than the Expectation."

As a volunteer i work there for 2 hours and help teach them math and english. We also have life skill sessions like money counting, trip to grocery stores , sports , dance , story telling, cutting vegetables, making tea , greeting cards and so on. Just two weeks old i have mainly observed them and have realised that they are more than willing to learn. They have no inhibitions and are as naughty as normal kids ( even more at times). For instance, they promise to do their homework but don't and when asked they give an apologetic innocent smile that melts your heart right out. They are very meticulous and keep a careful tab on their pencils, erasers, lunch boxes etc. They are particular and return the chairs ,tables, ball, notebooks to their rightful place. They take permission to use the washroom or drink water even though that's just their way to escape the grunt work. Children with autism have trouble communicating. They have trouble understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it very hard for them to express themselves either with words or through gestures, facial expressions, and touch. One of the major symptoms of autism is repeated hand movements like hand flapping and rocking , unusual attachments to people , attachment to objects and resistance to change in their routine but they also have unusually developed skills in other areas such as drawing, creating music, solving math problems, or memorizing facts ( like countries, capitals, states, citites, GK etc). While being accomodating, one has to be strict and firm so that it helps them learn.

Its challenging but great fun. They'll make you smile even on your worst days.

They are angels!


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