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Tiruvannamalai: A pilot study on early detection and intervention of disability in children conducted by Directorate of Differently Abled Welfare in coordination with People's Craft Training Centre (PCTC), an NGO, points at big void in the area and necessity for early action from policy-makers.
District Differently Abled Welfare Officer B. Charles Prabakaran told The Hindu, “As the government has decided to conduct a pilot study with regard to early detection and intervention in a single block in the State, we readily proposed Thurinjapuram block in Tiruvannamalai district and conducted the study in May and June.
“The study was conducted among children in the 0-6 age group. Previously, we identified disability only in 35 children of this age group in Thurinjapuram block and issued certificates. Now, as we took up the pilot study, welfare workers of the Vazhikattum Thittam identified 7,642 children to be in this age group in Thurinjapuram block. We carried out door-to-door review of all these children and shortlisted 180 children with traces of disability for further screening. Finally, as many as 141 children in the 0-6 age group, including previously identified cases, were found to be have various forms of disability. This is 106 cases more than our previous statistics,” Mr. Prabakaran said.
Those children would undergo treatment in three early intervention centres for different disabilities, in Tiruvannamalai district, he added.
Xavier Mariadoss, Project Director of PCTC, which is working on disability issues in Thurinjapuram block, told The Hindu, “We have been stressing on early detection and intervention for a long time. The huge difference shown by the study despite all our works, which alters the percentage of children with disability from 0.45 to 1.84 in this block, points to a void in systemic arrangements in detecting, intervening disabilities in children at earlier stage and warrants a comprehensive programme from government.”
But for this pilot study, those 106 left-out children would have grown into persons with disabilities. Social stigma leaves people reluctant of accepting or even suspecting that their children have signs of disability. When the parameters surface undeniably, they waste time and money seeking religious recourses, Mr. Mariadoss said. If there can be 106 undetected cases of children with disabilities, the figure that may emerge from a district and a whole State would present a grave picture and the study helped sensing the magnitude of the hazard, he added.
“If there is any impending disability in the infant, like hearing imparity, mental retardation, they can be found out with the help of simple tests soon after birth. If followed by effective intervention such as physiotherapy, life skill training and speech therapy etc., early detection would yield a lot of benefits. A child could be saved from miseries and troubles related to disability and dependency on family could be largely reduced. Rehabilitation would become easier and less expensive for the individual and the State. Hence, the government should come out with a comprehensive programme and ensure that every block has a multi-purpose early intervention centre,” Mr. Mariadoss said.
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