Samrat Salvi, 22, had a job as a dishwasher at a hotel before the lockdown. His mother Rupa Salvi, who is a special educator, was happy that her son, who is mentally challenged, was able to earn his own income.
In the last three months, Salvi has been trying to get her son engaged in some other job, but her efforts have been in vain. “Most people are sympathetic but they politely tell me to come back after a month,” says Salvi, who works at the AW Sindhu Vidya Bhavan at Baner.
The lockdown has been a trying time for parents of specially-abled children, who are accustomed to structured school schedules and activities at the playground. The three-month lockdown has seen several parents struggling to cope, as rehabilitation centres and special schools remain shut.
The state Social Welfare department has set up a state-supported link and guidance cell for the physically and mentally challenged, and also circulated a list of 121 counsellors and psychiatrists so that caregivers for specially-abled persons could seek help.
State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Prerna Deshbratar, told The Indian Express that there was good response after the list was circulated among persons with disabilities and several caregivers were offered psychological support. The mental health professionals had volunteered to provide online psychiatric and psycho-social support to persons with disabilities (PwD), she said.
According to Chetan Diwan, chairman of Board of Studies, Disabilities studies, Pune University, for the disabled community, the lockdown further accentuated their isolation at home. With a structured schedule, they could interact with special educators at schools and undergo therapy sessions, but all that was affected. “We often got calls from families regarding how to manage their child’s activity schedule,” he said.
Salvi also assisted several families in setting up a schedule that involved thumb painting and jewellery making by using beads, and urged society to accept them so that they could learn to be independent and have their own self-worth.
Dr Sanjay Kumawat, a psychiatrist, said he received several calls related to behavioural problems and counselled families who had to manage specially-abled children within their two-room homes.
“It was a testing time for caregivers. If the behaviour pattern of the child is not modified, there is a tendency to wander around. At times, family members welcomed these short strolls outside and gave them small jobs to perform. Due to the lockdown, everything came to a standstill and it was like these children were locked in,” he said.
Over 17,000 persons with disabilities had sought help to get groceries
There are approximately 29 lakh persons with disabilities in Maharashtra and during the lockdown, each district had appointed a nodal social welfare officer to ensure that they did not face problems ranging from accessibility to hospitals to availability of sanitiser and medicines.
State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Prerna Deshbratar, said that over 17,000 PwD had requested for groceries during the lockdown, with a large number of requests coming from Konkan, Pune and Nashik divisions.
Apart from urging divisional commissioners to provide employment job cards to PwD under Mahatma Gandhi Rastriya Gramin Rojgar Hami Yojana, CEOs of the state Rural/Urban Livelihood Mission were asked to provide financial assistance to self help groups of persons with disabilities .
“We also issued instructions to ensure that PwD who lived in rented houses were not asked to vacate due to non-payment of rent during the lockdown period,” she said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines