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Creative act by special children

M. Dinesh Varma

A twist in the tale of the `fox and the crow'



SPONTANEOUS: Children of the Madhuram Narayanan Centre for Exceptional Children enact the fox-and-crow fable in Chennai on Friday. — Photo: R. Ragu

CHENNAI: There were a few impromptu deviations from the script when animated children enacted the fox-and-crow fable at the Madhuram Narayanan Centre for Exceptional Children on Friday.

The `crow', which made away with a `vadai' from the old woman, politely returned the goody, before off-stage prompts restored the skit to its original plot. The `crow' — now perched on a tree with the `vadai' in its beak — turns overfriendly once again, happily handing over the `vadai' to the `wily fox' even before being asked to sing a song.

Each twist provided to the tale by the children drew enthusiastic approval from an audience that comprised parents, child development trainers and well-wishers.

Enjoying these `creative violations of script' was Amelia, a British disability volunteer, who directed the skit.

Amelia hails from the Alden family in U.K. under whose coordination scores of children at Oxford's Dragon School have been contributing toys and other gifts for their peers here.

The one-hour show by the special children included games, music and dance. The programmes marked the graduation of 22 special children who completed at least four years of development training at the institution. While eight children will move to mainstream schools, the rest will enter the fold of institutions for further special education.

"The entertainment is actually an extension of the mainstreaming interventions at the centre," said Jaya Krishnaswamy, coordinator. The programmes involved an array of functions ranging from memory recall to the ability to mingle in a group.

According to Vimala Kannan, principal, the Centre also organised outings, sports and arts meets and yoga to facilitate social integration.

In fact, the preparatory for the mainstreaming process begins almost a year in advance and involves mentoring the parents. The Centre also sensitises teachers of mainstream schools on the disability issue and trains them to manage special children. However, very few schools in the city have a total understanding of the issue, said Ms. Krishnaswamy.

Each year, at least 20 children, out of an estimated 120 special children under the fold, would have improved enough to move to other institutions. The flip side, as Ms. Krishnaswamy, pointed out was that 20 out of 100 children would require lifelong custodial care. "The rehabilitation of this category is a shared responsibility of Government and NGOs."

What sets apart the mainstreaming effort at the Centre is the thrust on early intervention (0-6 years).

The programmes are structured, indigenous and easy to replicate. The Centre also insists on the involvement of parents through a child's tenure with the institution.

S. Anandalakshmy, child development consultant and Bala Mandir Research Foundation president, was chief guest.

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