How It All Began.
Arpana – meaning offering - began life in June 1981, in the Parish hall of All Saints Church, with around 20 children. It is dedicated to the education and support of mentally challenged children who would otherwise receive no schooling and would be unable to lead a normal life.
Since it began, some 25 years ago, Arpana has grown from strength to strength and now has 100 children, of which 49 are girls and 51 are boys. The students range between 2½ years old to 20 years old, but have a mental age of not more than 15. All the children come from the poorer areas of the community, including many from the slums. The majority of the children at Arpana are from Hindu families, though a small number are from Muslim and Christian families, and all suffer from varying degrees of mental disability.
The aim of Arpana is to help its students adjust to whatever level of mental disability they have, and equip them with sufficient practical knowledge that they can be reintegrated into society and lead a normal life.
The staff and students at Arpana wish to express their gratitude and thanks to all those who continue to support us, and we ask that you uphold us in your prayers.
- Mrs Vasanthi Saduri, Superintendent
What is Mental Retardation?
MENTAL RETARDATION IS NOT AN ILLNESS.
MENTAL RETARDATION IS NOT INFECTIOUS.
Mental retardation is usually caused by damage to the brain before or during birth, or during infancy.
A short definition of mental retardation -
A significantly under-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behaviour, and manifested during the development period.
Education and Skills Training at Arpana
Arpana provides good education and skills training for those who are differently abled, namely the mentally challenged, cerebral palsied and multiple handicapped. Many children also suffer from Epilepsy, for which they also receive special care. Along with education and skills training, the children also receive free clothing, food, medical aid and vocational training. Health checks are regularly made by the staff of the CSI Hospital who are invited to Arpana to conduct the physical examinations. A complete assessment of the child is a must in the educational process and is conducted once a quarter.
Vocational skills training is given so as the child is able to lead as normal a life as possible, and to contribute to the community in which they live.
The children at Arpana are placed in classes according to their abilities and levels of performance, not their age. The children are taught in English, Kannada and Tamil, giving them a wide range of language skills. Individual help is given, and each child is taught to the extent possible. Classroom learning means that the children learn to work and socialize with others at the same time as learning Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.
Early Intervention is undertaken for those who are aged between 2 and a half and 6 years old. In this method, there is a higher concentration upon the teaching of daily living activities, and concepts like color, shape and number. During this time of Early Intervention, the parents are also given support and counseling, as this is a very difficult time for them also. Mothers are given training in handling their children as well.
Parent Meetings and Involvement
Parents meetings are also set up when needed. These meetings are an open forum where discussions of any problems and issues can take place.
Recreational & Vocational Skills
As well as their learning programmes, the children take part in Gardening (an occupational therapy), painting, drawing and sporting activities (for which some of the children have won various awards). Some of the sports that they participate in include running, basketball, handball and hockey.
The vocational skills that the children learn not only prepare them for future work, but also provide a little extra financial support for the school. The vocational unit has now established good relations with other organizations, institutions and private firms who place regular orders for many of the goods made by the Arpana students.
Below is a list of the trades in which the older boys and girls are trained:
• Envelope Making
• Screen Printing
• Window Covers
• Visiting Cards and Greeting Cards
• Candle Making
• Detergent and Soap Liquid
As a reward for all their hard work throughout the year, the children are taken on an annual excursion. These visits allow the children time to have a day to relax and have fun with their fellow students and teachers.
Integration of Students
We are very keen to allow our students to lead as normal a life as possible and therefore we will look to integrate our children into normal schools where possible. If we are not able to do this we will ensure they can be integrated into the community on leaving the school.
We have integrated a number or our children into normal schools – some to English medium primary schools and others to Tamil medium schools. These children are given extra tuition by their teachers and their friends help with reading and writing. We maintain contact with the children and visit their schools regularly to gain feedback.
We aim to give the child a skill which they can then use as a contribution to their community and as a basis for their income. It is important that when integrating the child into society, they are given the best possible chance of surviving against more able people.
Recently 7 children who have finished their schooling (both boys and girls), have been introduced to self-employment schemes in our outreach programs in the Neelasandra slums. The parents and siblings are also involved in this scheme. We were able to help these children by providing them with self-employment schemes through friends and well wishers. We bought them sugarcane making machines, wet-grinders, and others were given cash to start small businesses e.g. jam/pickle making, snacks/breakfast etc.
A School For Special Education