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The first learning disability remedial centre has been opened at St Kabir Public School, Sector 26, for all the Tricity school students and their parents. The school administrator, Gurpreet Bakshi, said the centre was the need of the hour. To be run after school hours at St Kabir, this endeavour is to enhance the awareness level through integrated, alternative education in the form of music, art, theatre and sports. The centre will be run by two trained educators — Sharmita Banerjee Bhinder and Bharti Kapoor — who are themselves parents to special children and have years of experience in remedial techniques and counselling of students.
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While Kapoor is a counseling psychologist, special educator, corporate trainer, hypno therapist and energy healer, Bhinder is a qualified lawyer and a soft skill trainer. Kapoor and Bhinder said almost 10 to 15 per cent of the school students have some specific learning disability that is termed as hidden handicap – one that does not show signs of disability but are instead termed as destructive, hyperactive, indifferent, lazy and unorganised.
Bhinder said: There are three types of challenges people face. Mental disability, physical challenge and then, the special ones. While the first two are visible and there is empathy and sympathy for them, it’s the special children who suffer.” These are the children who have autism, aspergers, dyslexia, disgraphia, discalculia, attention deficit disorder and neurobiological conditions that affect the wiring in the brain.
“As a result, these children have amazing intellectual capacities, but are neither capable nor interested in social interaction or skills,” Bhinder said.
Mother to a 14-year-old-son with high functioning autism, Bhinder was left broken and lost as a parent to a special child with no support group, communication or help. It was then when she decided to do something about it. After taking training and counseling, she started educating special educators, launched a parent support group and collaborated with Kapoor to start the learning disability programme.
Then, under Kapoor’s Joy Lall Memorial Educational Society, NGO EmPower was launched last year to focus on ability and awareness. The two also said the children of the government schools in Mohali and Chandigarh have high learning disability cases.
“This is high IQ but low academic achievement, and we have not counted the mild cases yet. In private schools, it is three out of 40 kids,” Bhinder said, adding that though CBSE and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan have fantastic guideline for learning disability, none of it translates to actual groundwork.
“Slow learners are pushed by the system, parents and school. If remedial action and intervention is done at early stages, these children can be merged in mainstream, else they are left stigmatised and traumatised,” said Kapoor.
Commenting on the condition of the 20 per cent differently-abled population of the country, Kapoor said: “They are locked up in their homes, over medicated, taken to mental institutions, not talked about, not brought out in public spaces and marginalised. The disability becomes a taboo.”
The duo feels that it is imperative to train counsellers, teachers, parents first for the welfare of the child. “We have seen wherever parents are involved, the results are phenomenal,” said Kapoor. Bhinder lists celebrated names — A R Rahman, Microsoft’s Satya Nadela and Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Thomas Edison, Mozart, Sachin Tendulkar — who have suffered from learning disability. “How much talent are we going to lose over our ignorance?” asked Kapoor.
The vision is now to open a state-of-the-art remedial centre with day boarding and living hostel and work on employment generation for these kids, especially in the digital world beyond making bags and candles.