Colorss - My Work with Children with Disabilities
Understanding life is really difficult. It’s better not to understand it and let it come the way it has to. We can improve our life with our collective hard work, practical approach and meditation. There is a bright ray of light within everyone, it is constantly trying to come out and break through.
Words can not describe my experience of working with children with disabilities, as every day is a new learning and new memory. They are my family.
In June of 1999, I received my first Dan Black Belt in karate. Since then I have been teaching children karate. My love for children kept me busy with them directly or indirectly. We had one group of deaf and dumb children and giving them training during tournaments and examinations was a real challenge, however there were very focused and sincere students. The result was that they won the tournament in both categories: boys and girls.
I have studied the impact of the voice modules of working parents and its effects on a child (5-10 years old). The tensions at a work place can be felt in a parent’s voice that has an impact on a child’s behavior. After three months of hard work, I gave my findings with the do’s and don’ts to all the parents. And it’s working!
What I have learned, and in these many years of teaching, what I have observed is the importance of a teacher. It’s the teacher who brings the impact and change. I am very thankful to all my teachers and mentors who guided me.
Before I started to work among children with disabilities, I visited many hospices and observed how they operated and their daily activities. Each hospice has its own specialty and the children have their own characteristics. This can be well defined from the environment, food, climate, cloth, medication and care that they get from the caretaker. We have managed to move many residents from government orphanages to private ones. The changes that were observed in them were very encouraging, proving that the proper environment, love and care, health and hygiene, food, and above all the love and support of the caretaker make a huge difference.
My first day at a government orphanage, broke me apart. I was speechless to see the plight and how they are living. They came running around me and hugged me. Well it was a common sight as they get food, clothes and love from outsiders. I stayed there for more than an hour and scanned the whole scenario; the living conditions, environment, electricity, water, drainage, medications, hygiene, bedding, clothes, food, caretakers, playroom, storehouse and all the required parameters. I wrote my journal and went to sleep. Next morning when I read the journal, I was convinced that this is where I am going and what I am going to do. Working with these children is a gift from God to me. When I am with them, I am a different person and everything starts flowing like water, I need not think about what to do and how to do it.
Believe me you need to have a heart to work with these children. I had been very expressive with my eyes; lot of communication was done with the help of it. Residents never saw sympathy in my eyes for them. You need to motivate them; let them know that they are the best and can do it. I made them realize the importance of who they are in this world.
We had to design everything and get things organized. It was really challenging dealing with tough conditions and parameters that were not in our control. Different therapies were introduced to them; work plans were rescheduled and made to be result-oriented. Focus was given to social skills and life saving skills. Everything was happening quickly and results were seen in almost all the areas of life.
There are 35 residents whom I work with at a time. During my session, the discipline and silence that they maintain is outstandingly great. Even if I move out of their vision, the majority of the residents would be seated in their place and would ask my permission to leave.
The love and respect they have for me makes me believe I can make a difference.
We have residents who are suffering from downs syndrome, autism, other mental impairments, deafness, cerebral palsy, mild to severe learning disabilities, and some multiple disabilities.
Most of the time I was involved in group therapy. This helped in giving attention to all the residents at the same time. The whole idea about having group therapy was to build trust among them. This was the base foundation of my work. Gradually these children started to trust each other and feelings of belonging increased. During group therapy arrangements were made in such a way that the aggressive residents were next to each other. As the group therapy started they got the opportunity to understand each other. This further helped in developing trust among each other (e.g. while passing the ball in group therapy they knew that the resident is going to pass the ball and vice a versa. This developed trust among themselves) as days passed by aggression among each other was lowered down. Assessment was carried out to see who can lead the team and carry out the responsibility of taking care of residents who suffer from multiple disabilities and cerebral palsy. Soon we came with a solution and found couple of residents who are very fast learners and having good understanding. Now these residents wash these children, brush them, change clothes and take care of them. I would really say lot of hard work was involved in achieving.
There are a couple of residents who need one-to-one attention. Every day I used to spend half an hour doing physiotherapy with residents suffering with cerebral palsy. While doing physiotherapy, colors are exposed to the resident to stimulate him and divert his attention from the pain of stretching. He was always fascinated with blue color, clouds and water. His understanding level was good and he was a very fast learner.
He was exposed to different photographs and was instructed to identify them (birds, animals, clouds, children taking baths in water, teeth-brushing and doing exercises). Once when both of us reached a level of understanding, we introduced water therapy for him. This benefited us a lot. His motivation was very high for the water since he never liked physiotherapy because of the pain. His body got more flexible, conditioning his upper body as well lower body after he was introduced to water and a sponge to play with. Because he has to move himself to reach for the tub, the motivation to reach water helped him to learn how to crawl.
We taught him how to clean himself and the importance of being clean. Now we bring the tub with water and his sponge, he is able to undress himself and clean his body and face. It gives immense happiness to see that he is learning social skills very fast. Gradually we trained him to brush teeth, button and unbutton shirt and eat food properly. Here these social skills were taught to him unconsciously as more focus was given to water, color, brush, paste and sponge. Now his mental health is very good and he obeys simple commands. For the last couple of months we have not seen him suffering from depression; a very good achievement.
Another resident is autistic and has speech problems. He prefers isolation and is afraid of a crowd. He loves to swing so we spend most of the time at the swing and I kept talking with him all the time. I clean his nails, give him a bath. He understands everything and trusts me. He will hold my fingers and walk around; while walking I take a couple of other residents with me and instruct one of them to hold his hand. This will help me in bringing them close. He loves music and is a very beautiful dancer. Slowly I was able to understand his behavior and mood swings. Teaching him social skills was very difficult.
In my presence only he will wash himself and brush, many times he will come around and pull me to the washing area (he wants a shower). We are trying to establish his rapport with other residents so that the residents can take care of him. I was worried will the plan work! So in the daily routine at the swing I talked with him about the plan and told him, you need to talk to me and tell me what you want. One more effort of talking with him seemed to yield no result. I was puzzled and feeling low. One fine day he smiled at me and called ‘maa’ I was surprised and asked him again what did you say. He said ‘maa’ and ran away. (Maa is a hindi word meaning mother.) I can’t explain my feelings in words. The moment was one of my happiest moments of life.
I am a work-alcoholic and generally miss eating and sleeping. Working under tremendous pressure and stress, there was one day when I was very low with 145/100 BP, and nearly had a nervous breakdown. Still I managed to go to the hospice and this was one of my best gifts given by god to me. The residents sensed that there was something wrong and they were the best well-behaved children I had ever seen in my career of teaching. Pin drop silence, few of the senior moderate learning disabled residents took charge and arranged the whole class. My eyes were all wet in tears, but I had to be strong. They kept asking me, why are you crying? I told them to close their eyes and meditate. Later a resident who told me to take a rest carried out the rest of the session.
These children have accepted me and now I am part of their family. They have many things to teach me and others. They love to dance and play. I found them to be fast learners and very obedient. After living with these beautiful children and spending time, I found they are such a beautiful soul trapped in the human body. This was the time I took a step ahead.
I have a vision and dream. Thus I took the decision to set up my own organization ‘Colorss’ and give the best of what I can in my capacity. My vision is to have an orphanage with a vocational and rehabilitation center. I dream to make inclusion easy and create a platform for these children wherefrom they can exhibit their talent to the world. I dream to create a platform from where society will learn things from them.
‘Colorss’; the name itself talks about all the colors and emotions of life. If there is no color in life it would be dull and boring.