In a village 26 km from Bangalore, lives a 3 year old boy Dhanush. In a closed setting, within a matter of a few minutes, a team with years of training and experience notice the listless, unenthusiastic, non- verbal child. He looks at us warily, his mouth open and drooling. Soon his eyes well up and his body goes rigid.
This aptly describes our first meeting with Dhanush, at the Anganwadi centre (Primary care facility) of his village. His teacher shares with us that Dhanush experiences severe anxiety when separated from his mother and that she, the teacher, is unable to get him to sit with the other 5 children who are under her care. “He cries a lot” she says. “He cannot speak and is still like a baby.”
Born to a mother with speech and hearing impairment and an alcoholic father, Dhanush was bereft of attention, stimulation and language - critical elements to the overall development of all children especially under the age of 5. The lack of these much needed stimulants had earned him the label of a mute and he was referred to as “Kariya” - the little black boy - prone to violent outbursts and shrieking, by the community at large. He could only make his needs known by crying and pointing to objects.
He had no playmates and no one to tell him bedtime stories. He was fed, clothed and handled like an infant by his mother.
While we too initially assumed he was mute and hearing impaired, it became apparent rather quickly during our assessments that he had NO hearing impairments. He had been unfairly labelled and treated as a deaf and mute child.
Over the past 8 months, despite breaks in his therapy, Dhanush is a success story in his own right. He’s come a long way from the listless and clingy ‘baby’ we met and can now be described as a cheerful child who enjoys the social company of other children, shares toys with his peers and shows aptitude and intelligence more in line with his age.
His ability to discern that he needs to communicate through actions with his speech and hearing impaired mother, and through verbal communication with others is yet another indicator of his mental ability.
For now with Dhanush, we believe he has the opportunity to be the best that he can be.
So why have we launched this Campaign?
In the 8 months that we have been working with Dhanush, we believe the changes in him are nothing short of transformative. Our timing in beginning this Outreach initiative couldn’t have been better and we were fortunate to have discovered him when we did.
However, despite the progress, this is just a start for Dhanush. The coming year is crucial. If Dhanush is to integrate into a mainstream school system, his progress needs to be as rapid and as successful as it has been so far. He needs therapy and expertise, beyond what we can bring to him in the village, and he needs a specific type of specialisation that a school, like FAME India, is well equipped to provide.
So, who are “We”?
“We” are FAME India, a non profit school that began in 2001 with the vision to rehabilitate and educate special needs children in India.
The FAME India school provides individualized education, therapy and rehabilitative services to close to 100 children with special needs ranging from Intellectual Disability, Cerebral Palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Muscular Dystrophy, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and other multiple disabilities. Most of the children at the FAME India school come from socio economic situations similar to Dhanush.
A study carried out by ICMR showed that close to 18% of the incidences of special needs occurs in rural areas particularly in states like Karnataka, Maharashtra etc. Backed by this data we decided to push the boundaries of location and launched our Outreach initiative, using our in-house expertise which included:
- a trained speech therapist
- a veteran physiotherapist
- a special educator
- a medico social worker, and
- a dedicated community rehabilitation worker.