A young friend of mine is 10 years old. He is extremely warm, funny and we share our love for two-minute noodles. He is also very special. Since birth he suffers from a mental illness which does not allow him to indulge in activities as practiced by other 10 year olds. He has no friends of his age barring the ones at school and spends most of his waking hours infront of the television. Whenever I go over for a visit, we spend a lot of time playing the “secret” games that we have invented and follow it up with songs and rhymes. These days he has a baby brother to keep him company. His parents are scared to let him be by himself and are always patrolling nearby. The atmosphere at times becomes intimidating and it seems that they don’t trust their child alone or with someone other than themselves.
Children like this particular boy are indeed special. Their development and growth is different from other kids. In our Indian society parents of such children are often at a loss as to the techniques that are to be adopted to bring them up. Initial reactions are of disbelief and shame. They try to pass off the children as “regular kids”. They are sent to regular schools, given regular books to read and when they are unable to cope with the pace, they are punished. By the time the parents realise that the child needs special care it is too late. The children become reticent and conscious of themselves.
The parents also go through a traumatic time as they are unaware of how to bring up the child. It would not respond to them as per “accepted” perceptions. The lack of proper support systems or awareness leaves them pretty much to their own resources. Added to it is the negativity that shrouds the society that makes them closeted and guilt-ridden. In western countries, parents often form groups or interactive forums where they can share their problems and solve them. Experienced members guide the new members, making the task easy for them.
These days there are many such schools which have been set up which follow alternative methods of teaching that allows the children to learn according to their capabilities and at their own pace. Alongwith regular lessons they are given classes in music, dramatics, yoga, painting and other stress relieving activities. My friend goes to one such school and these days he is pretty excited about the karate classes that he has been attending. He has promised to demonstrate the kicks and chops to me next day I go over.

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