Peter Pan: Do you believe in fairies? Say quick that you believe. If you believe, clap your hands!!!
Dear Blue Fairy,
Today, I write essentially with the desire for a wish. A wish to find magic in teaching, in learning and a mighty wish to provide for some pixie dust that must enable the so called disabled, mangled and the impaired.
It is this little wish that gave birth to the REMEDIAL (ACADEMIC) UNIT at SK. While we are very clear that as an organization we would cater only for vocational developments, it was then realized that the children were profoundly lacking with their comprehension. I had two 13-year-old boys who were struggling with reading a simple passage and answering questions.
One of them was absolutely incapable of reading anything and analyzing or decoding the text to an application mode. It was then that I started to wonder what the point would have been to go ahead with vocational training while the children were not be able to understand what the difference is between a wild and a pet animal, a big and small number, ascending and descending orders and the meaning of so many words. The understanding of the 13 year old was stranded at that of maybe a 5 to 7 year old. Vocational concepts seemed like a distant dream but in reality if we meant to train effectively these goals would have to be achieved.
Recognizing the obstacles is one thing but manipulating them to suit our needs is entirely a different animal. Eventually, it was ascertained that it had to be done. I knew that this unit would have to work in a way that no other could even imagine to do.
The one on one model, the continuous practice sheets, the inter-weaving with the drama teacher, story-teller and the movement person to explore lesson based concepts, the interactive classroom training with the latest and updated technology for concept training, the creation of a suitable curriculum and also very many techniques, aids and resources began along with an initiative that was coordinated within the home environment too.
Some days never end because of the humongous amount of work we need to put together to achieve very small and miniscule goals. Each and every instructor has been handpicked and specifically trained to achieve very specific goals. Each and every moment of the child’s day is planned with great care and consistency. There is a huge gaping void in the development and understanding with regards to learning and negotiating of self with the self and others and the working of a self in a presented environment hence; it becomes mandatory to pay close attention to the tiniest of details.
It became clearer to me as I worked with the boys that there were inconsistencies in their communication skills, their social and emotional skills and also logical and technical skills and all this was not only due to Autism. In fact it seemed to be more because of years of ineffective program and plan designing along with misplaced and unstructured, inconsistent and irrational teaching methodologies.
To ensure that we would fight that void in the most effective way, we worked long hours with many multiple ways that could or would help us break or even make a dent in the deep-rooted barriers that stopped the development of the children. In a few months, we saw results, we managed to achieve a 1st to 3rd standard progression (combined ICSE, CBSE and STATE syllabus) within a period of a year.
A child who could not read one line and understand it now reads stories and is able to answer questions relevantly in full sentences. A child who could not work for a period of 20 minutes with academics now works straight from 10:00 – 6:00 with academics. A child who was incapable of explaining what he had read in his own words now is summarizing each science or English literature lesson with minimal verbal prompts.
A child who could not do ascending and descending ordering now does mental math and is able to buy 3 pencils each costed at Rs.5 without having to write it down or ponder over it for 20 minutes. Children who did not know why they must value money now collect money in their piggy banks and bring it so that they can buy their own stationery at school every week. Children who did not understand the meaning of words strung together in sentences will now break the words singularly into parts of speech and understand what those sentences exactly mean. A child who could not retain the plot of a story, which is comprised of only 1 paragraph, now reads a story or a science lesson comprising of 3 pages without any images and is able to summarize it in his own words in writing.
Children who did not understand the meaning of a test or an exam are now doing weekly tests and final year exams independently without any invigilator present in the room with their question papers and their answer sheets. They are aware of how to work with separate answer sheets and also of how to deal with answering questions that they may not know the answer to minus the anxiety attacks. Every week they come prepared for a weekly test so that they are able to deal with it as a process rather than a moment of nervous breakdown.
Adolescents who could not report abuse are now working with counselor to learn how to identify and also report abuse or bullying episodes. A young adult who refused to leave his home is today working with multiple people in the unit and also being a buddy to the younger ones in the unit while helping out with carpentry and horticultural work.
While all these seem to have happen, it actually involves many hours of extreme pursuance and dedication from volunteers, specialized experts and also the parents. It has been a long hard journey and even now we haven’t started the celebrations but instead continue to work consistently and make the boys work even more harder because in truth we have managed to cover a very small part of the void and it is just the tip of the iceberg conquered. That of course can’t mean celebrations can it, hence calling out for the pixie dust.
Please all those who want to challenge what words mean to you, all those who understand the innovative ways to teach and all those who have a passion to teach or even just help, please reach out to us as we are always LOOKING for more and more HELP.