Differently-abled in Tamil Nadu get a special touch with AICE

In four years, AICE has been a success with 125 children under its wing: 50 children with special needs, 20 children in conflict with law, among others.

Published: 10th April 2022 07:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th April 2022 07:51 AM   |  A+A-

Chitra Shah

Chitra Shah

Express News Service

PUDUCHERRY: Chitra Shah is busy with kids round the clock. The 52-year-old social worker from Puducherry doesn't single out children, keeping each one of them close to her heart. Some of them are having developmental disorders and in need of a special touch.

Some are traumatised; some others are children of commercial sex workers and prisoners. Her sole aim is to help them transform their lives, and make them independent. A founding member and currently director of Satya Special School (SSS) that began operations in 2003, Shah ventured into a project, Alternative Inclusive Centre for Education (AICE) at Villianur in 2017.

She knew that these children could not join the mainstream schools since they did not possess the same skillset like other kids. Many of them were slow learners and some suffered from dyslexia. In most cases, teachers and even their parents gave had given up on them.

At AICE, unlike mainstream schools, it works with children on an ability-specific curriculum, not an age-specific curriculum. "We don’t look at the whole syllabus, but only what they can learn. Teaching is one-to-one or in smaller groups with specific skillsets. It is more of visual and practical learning," says Shah.

At AICE, an assessment is done on the learning ability and social behaviour pattern. The teaching methodology and curriculum are based on the minimum requirement specified by the government. In four years, AICE has been a success with 125 children under its wing: 50 children with special needs, 20 children in conflict with law, among others.

Anitha* (name changed) is a 20-year-old from a village who is studying at a community college and was termed a slow learner, but at AICE it was found that she was a traumatised child after she was sexually abused.

"Alternative therapy models, like art, drama, music therapy and counselling helped her in slowly opening up and overcoming the trauma to a great extent. We first knew her when she visited our village centre remedial classes as a slow learner. She was able to handle academics, so, we moved her to AICE. However, we noticed she was uncommunicative and realised she must have suffered some trauma. Today, Anitha is a young woman who is looking forward to completing her diploma and taking up a rewarding career," says Shah.

As a judgement-free zone, AICE works on helping the child. "Here, no one asked me what my father was doing or bullied me because of my father's mistakes," said a child of a prisoner. He is now writing his Class 10 board exams.

AICE has also helped the children interested in sports achieve their dreams. Vijayalakshmi with an intellectual disability, has won many tournaments and medals in various sports, including badminton, volleyball and hockey, at 18 years of age.  She came to SSS after dropping out of Class 8.

Vijayalakshmi's crowning glory came at the Thailand Special Olympics- Asia Pacific Unified Badminton Championship 2019, when she won the gold medal. Shah is also the recipient of the United Way Chennai 360 Degree Award for the best programme for disability.

India Matters


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