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- Jyot School: Creating meaningful lives for autistic children!
Jyot School: Creating meaningful lives for autistic children!
Rahul Chandawarkar visits the Jyot school for children with autism in Davorlim, Margao and comes away impressed…
As the 16-year-old Ryan Rebello sang ‘Aye Watan…’ song ever so soulfully with his fellow students at the Jyot school for children with autism, you cannot help but get goose bumps (https://youtu.be/7w7UC2-RBTU).
The boys were practicing for the I-Day celebrations at their Davorlim based school and are a happy and enthusiastic lot. They smile easily and introduce themselves with confidence. But it was not like this some 10 years ago when many of them walked into the Jyot school with their parents for the first time.
“They were hardly so calm and collected when they walked into the school the first time. All of them displayed the many behavioural deficiencies of autism and we had to spend many years to work on them. Today, boys like Ryan are our school’s pride and joy as he confidently sings in public places with ease” Varsha Desai, parent of an autistic child and co-founder, Jyot school said.
Jyot school has had an interesting genesis. In the early 2000s, Varsha, a resident of Margao realised that there was no special school for autistic children in South Goa and parents were forced to look after their autistic children at home. This is how, Varsha along with a few parents of autistic children came together and started the Jyot School in a rented room in Borda in 2002.
Varsha got the school registered as an NGO, operated out of the Adarsh VV High school premises in Margao for a few years, before shifting to their present, more spacious premises in Davorlim in 2012.
Working out of their ground plus one-floor structure today, Jyot operates a school for children and youth in the age group of 4-25 between 8 am and one pm, six days a week with a government Bal Rath bus at their disposal to pick and drop the children in an 8km radius.
Armed with a post graduate degree in special education herself, Varsha, leads a team of five special educators, one speech therapist, one occupational therapist and a music teacher to run an efficient school for 45 students.
According to Varsha, early diagnosis and early intervention is very important in autism cases. “If children come to us at age three and four, we are able to mould them easily,” she said. A fact reiterated by Sandhya Pagi, the affable Jyot school teacher in charge of the younger children. “It is easier to introduce speech therapy at age three and four. We teach conversational skills by using daily objects like a cup etc and making children say, ‘Give me the cup or maka cup dee in Konkani,” Sandhya said.
Introducing hand-eye coordination is very important among little children according to Varsha, which was evident from a class where children were encouraged to play with a large, colourful plastic ball.
Typically, children in the age group of 5-10 at Jyot are taught hand-eye coordination, attention building, motor skills, daily living and communication skills.
While the older children in the 10-15 age group, are taught functional mathematics, basic reading and writing, communication and social skills. According to Varsha, a couple of students from Jyot will even be attempting the Class X examinations under the national open school (NOS) scheme very soon.
If that is not all, the Jyot school has already introduced their older students to playing the keyboard. Future plans include teaching them computer typing, basic carpentry, making imitation jewellery and paper bags.
Ryan Rebello (16) Jyot student: I love to sing. My mother taught me how to sing. I love to sing Konkani songs and ‘Chanya Cha Raati’ is my favourite song.
Chills Noronha (13) Jyot student: I love singing also and ‘Aye Watan…’ is my favourite song. I love to sing it with my friends.
Sandhya Pagi, special educator, Jyot school: Parents must bring their children to us at a young age. It is easier for us to mould them.
Varsha Desai, special educator and co-founder Jyot school: There is an increased awareness about autism today.
Autism is a long-life developmental disorder that typically appears in the first three years of life. It is a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain. It is four times more common in boys than girls. Autism is not a disease, but a condition. There is no medicine to treat autism. Early diagnosis and training are very important for the development of the child. There are many different intervention methods and programs, but there is no one method that suits all children. Special education programs using behavioural intervention, occupational therapy and speech therapy has proved more helpful than others.