It was with great pride that Simran Wadhwa showed off her creation – a painting of two birds perched high and a cat,perhaps,in the centre. There were no squiggles or careless strokes that would suggest it had been created by an eight-year-old who is different from the rest of her peers. Wadhwa,the girl with the broadest smile and a naughty sparkle in her eyes,is suffering from Downs Syndrome (DS),but leading as close to normal a life as possible. That perhaps was the point which Shivani Dhillon,founder,Downs Syndrome Support Group India was looking to make when she rolled out Art with a Heart,a painting workshop for children by award-winning Gond artist,Venkat Shyam,this Sunday in Chandigarh.
While different age groups of children got to learn the traditional art form,their parents were made aware of DS. The idea essentially was to spread awareness about the support group and to tell people that such a platform exists and also to involve children,even those with Downs Syndrome,to come together on one common meeting ground, remarked Dhillon,whose two-year-old daughter,Shriya,has Downs Syndrome.
The World Health Organisation defines DS as a type of mental retardation caused by extra genetic material in chromosome 21. The condition causes intellectual and physical disability and associated medical issues. While internationally,support groups are fairly common,the trend is not the same in India. Sadly,most parents dont know much about Downs Syndrome,how to identify it and then deal with a special child. There is lack of information and thats why I thought of putting together a support group that could not just bring families together but act as a resource point as well, informs Dhillon.
Starting off with a Facebook page that now has over 150 members,followed by the creative workshop,Dhillon is hoping to reach out to as many people as possible. Joining her is another city-based parent with a DS child,Sumeet Brahmawar,who also helped Dhillon put together the workshop. My two and half year old son had DS and when I visited leading medical institutions I was appalled at the lack of information that is handed out to parents. Our aim is to generate funds with such art workshops and print booklets of information that can be distributed for free across hospitals and clinics, remarked Brahmawar.
For parents with children who have DS,a support group in the city comes as good news.