Chennai: It is normally difficult for parents to raise children. And it is doubly so if the child is born with special needs.
Yet like every parents around the globe, they will shower their child with unconditional love. This is what Shiyamala Mohan and her husband have been doing for their daughter from the day she was born.
The duo run, Sri Sakthi Academy – a school for special children at Ekkattuthangal. This unique centre is gradually changing the way we approach teaching special children.
The academy has nearly 60 students with mental retardation, ADHD, ADD, Down’s syndrome, autism and other learning disabilities.
Speaking to ‘News Today’, Shiyamala explains how her academy began. “I have a daughter who was born with special needs. It was difficult to raise her up but with the support of my husband I managed. I learned several things over the years on how to raise such a child. Soon, I decided to start an academy for such children to learn to live independently.”
She explains how her centre brings in students. “We first assess their cognitive abilities and check if they can be educated,” says Shiyamala who is also a qualified psychologist.
“After a week of observation, if we find the students having the capability to be taught, they are assigned to classes that have syllabus based on their age and abilities.”
Having over 20 years of teaching experience for individuals with special needs, Shiyamala created her own syllabus for the students of her academy.
“The important thing we aim for is students should achieve independence,’ she says. ‘We don’t want to take their disabilities as a weakness but as their strength and help them live life on their own terms.”
The students are taught concepts in maths, English and other subjects while there are also classes where they are taught to paint, make bags, create terracotta, make jewellery to name a few.
The students are provided with learning materials to keep them engaged throughout the classes. They are also taught to use computers, smart phones, data entry, attend phone calls, etc.
“Teaching them such basics helps them find jobs,” says Shiyamala and happily adds that some of her students are now working for firms across the city.
During the Chennai 2015 floods, the academy suffered immense loss, yet Shiyamala and her team were determined to continue teaching special children. “So many well wishers helped us to get back into teaching one way or the other,” she says.
Her academy also trains students who are eligible to appear for 10th and 12th examinations conducted by NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) thereby helping them to apply for various jobs.
What motivates Shiyamala to run this academy? “I want to help children with special needs to be able to live independently. I want to help parents of such children,’ she states and signs off by saying, ‘This was all possible only with the support of my husband, Mohan Raj.”