A true ‘Peranbu’ story

Established in 2008 with just 10 members, Siragugal has grown into a lifeline for families with children facing intellectual disability, autism, and cerebral palsy.
‘Siragugal’ empowers persons with intellectual disabilities to create a range of sustainable products, including mats, plates, and bags
‘Siragugal’ empowers persons with intellectual disabilities to create a range of sustainable products, including mats, plates, and bags Photo | M K Ashok Kumar

TIRUCHY : Like any other parent, P Sundaram, close to become a septuagenarian, was always worried about his 37-year-old son, who is intellectually disabled. Several haunting questions loomed large: “How long can I take care of him? Who will be with him after me? Who will give him a job?”

These questions echo the real fear of many parents and caretakers of children with disabilities.

Sundaram’s search for an answer led him to form Siragugal — a Special Children Parents Association (SPAT) — in Tiruchy. Established in 2008 with just 10 members, Siragugal has grown into a lifeline for families with children facing intellectual disability, autism, and cerebral palsy. This organisation offers not just emotional support but also practical help in taking care of these children.

“Families face immense stress, financial burden, and social restrictions,” said Sundaram. In most districts, the provision of care for adults with intellectual disability remains scarce. Though there are welfare departments for persons with disability (PwDs), Sundaram points out, “Persons with intellectual disabilities are far different from other disabilities and they need more attention and care.”

However, Siragugal stands out both as a special needs school and a manufacturing unit, offering comprehensive training tailored to the unique abilities and aspirations of people with intellectual disability. Through the expert guidance of the Siragugal team, they are empowered to create a diverse range of products, including floor mats, areca nut plates, jute bags, and screen printing.

“In special needs schools, there are only basic education classes until class 8. However, here we conduct classes for higher standards, including class 8 to 12 and TNPSC exam by utilising the 4% reservation for PwD students. Last year, five students cleared TNPSC with the help of scribes and got placed in jobs, and 14 students have cleared class 10 and got promoted,” Sundaram shares. He emphasises the significance of educational opportunities at special needs schools, which not only reflects a commitment to inclusive education but also highlights the untapped potential of these students.

“The few employees who are working here, including teachers, don’t even anticipate getting paid,” he adds.

Krishna Kumari, a dedicated parent whose daughter Sai Kasthuri was one of the earliest students to join the organisation, says, “My daughter was the third student registered in Siragugal. We have been there since the very beginning of the foundation. She is 32 years old and is currently pursuing class 10 with training from Siragugal teachers.”

However, she emphasised the urgent need for governmental support and interventions. “As the number of categories in children with disabilities keep increasing straight from 11 to 21, the facilities provided by the government are very minimal,” she points out.

In a plea to the government, Kumari stressed the need for basic clinical IQ diagnosis in district hospitals, psychologists in vacant blocks, job opportunities for siblings, and the establishment of proper special needs schools and homes.

“I am a TNPSC aspirant and Siragugal is helping me to achieve my goals with considerate teachers,” says S Thanga Prasath, one of the TNPSC aspirants enrolled in the association.

The organisation also plays a vital role in supporting local communities, providing a platform for parents of persons with intellectual disabilities in rural areas to showcase and sell goods such as health mix, appalam, and various oils through the Siragugal network, promoting economic empowerment and community development.

Sundaram requests recognition of the pivotal role that siblings play in the lives of these children, underscoring the importance of supportive family, “It is the siblings who should have more awareness about the special children. After their parents, the siblings are all they have.”

In a bold initiative to create a positive impact on the community, Siragugal is aiming to seek permission from the government to lease five acres of land and is excited to announce their plans to build a model village. Expressing enthusiasm about the upcoming project, Sundaram says, “The organisation is gearing up to seek support from parents and community members to raise the necessary funds to construct essential facilities such as a hostel, a common dining hall, and a common restroom.”

Highlighting the community-driven approach of the project, he further says, “It is heartening to see the support from parents and community members who are willing to contribute both financially and with their time and expertise. This project is a true testament to the spirit of collaboration within our community.”

(Edited by Mary Catherene)

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com