After several hospital visits, CT scans, and surgeries that cost them a fortune, Armaan’s family from Tumkur, Karnataka, had done every possible bit to find a treatment for his developmental irregularities – like no neck control, speech and response impediments. By the age of three, most of the doctors had declared that there is no treatment to make him a “normal” child. For a family of daily wage-earners, there was little left to do other than accept the child’s condition as their destiny, until GiftAbled Foundation’s early intervention therapy centre for special children in Tumkur came to their rescue. With only 3 months of physical therapy, he has now gained better neck control and has started responding to others.
Pushpita is a 6-year-old girl at the centre who found it difficult to respond, use her hands or use the toilet on her own. With a big family and another small daughter to look after, her mother did not know how to take better care of her. At the centre, the specialist doctor and trainers helped her learn to sit up and respond, using various specialised methods and instruments. Every child is individually attended to at the centre, with time-bound improvement goals for each.
This is the only early intervention centre in Tumkur which is providing help to kids like Armaan and Pushpita, who are affected by impaired hearing, poor vision, delayed response to stimuli, stunted growth and other developmental disorders.
However, earning only 100-150 rupees per day, it is nearly impossible for many parents to spend 200 rupees every day for travelling to the centre. At the end of a month, the transport itself claims a substantial part of their meagre earnings. So they cannot afford to come to the centre daily, which is delaying the kids’ therapies and in-turn affecting their growth. Ideally, a child needs to be trained every day. Moreover, during the monsoon or winter season, they cannot come to the centre for weeks as transport is a costlier affair then.
To make things easier for them, Tumkur Therapy Centre has planned an initiative to start a mobile therapy unit. A special vehicle, equipped with training and exercise facilities is expected to serve three distinct purposes. First and foremost, it will provide free up and down transport to bring the children to the centre regularly. Secondly, the children can undergo therapy within the vehicle itself, enabling the organisation to help more kids on the go. Lastly, it will also be used to reach out to more families with special children, living in the rural interiors. The mobile therapy unit would help Giftabled’s therapy centre to gift new hope for more special children.
Started in April 2018, the therapy centre is run by Natesh and supervised by Prarthana and Prateek – the couple behind GiftAbled, a foundation that works with differently-abled individuals taking care of their health, livelihood, social acceptance and spreading awareness. The therapy centre at Tumkur is their latest initiative under the health and awareness segment.
The treatment at the centre is centred around rehabilitation, which will help the children to be integrated into the mainstream society.
Among the 30 children at the Centre, most are within 6 years, since medical experts believe early intervention to be the best way to help special children. In simple words, the earlier, the better. Usually, there are developmental milestones for infants – like crying after birth or responding to the clapping of hands at 2-3 months or learning to walk or speak. If the child displays problems with achieving these milestones, then doctors try to diagnose the specific developmental disorder affecting them. The common issues noticed include slow response, mental retardation, stunted growth, impaired hearing or speech, lack of neck control and poor posture.
The doctor’s role ends after the diagnosis and basic medication, after that the child should be provided with early intervention therapies.
However, the story is a little different for people from the poorer background. Due to lack of awareness, most parents think their child will be “cured” when they grow up. Worse still, many such special children are taken to religious places, priests and conjurers until they grow up with deformities that could have been averted by early intervention.
The volunteers visit the kids’ houses regularly, to train the parents about the exercise routine that needs to be followed at home. They also provide psychological counselling so that the family members treat the child with better care. Also, the parents are made aware of the rights and benefits offered to the special children by the government, and the centre helps them avail those in time.
Most of them are from low-income families, where earning the daily bread is the primary concern. Due to low immunity, children with developmental issues fall sick very often; flu, diarrhoea and infections are frequent. The recurring medical costs add up to the woes of their families. Amidst all this, the Tumkur Therapy Centre has been a blessing to them. Mothers who work as maids, fathers who work as labourers, grandfathers who work as porters – take time out of their sweat-stained days to travel 8-10 km to the Centre, armed with the hope that soon their boys or girls will smile, laugh and walk – just like other children their age.
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