Children with special needs from lower socio economic groups lack access to free special education because of low social and familial acceptance and awareness, depriving them of their right to development, future employment and a quality life.
In the 10 years that Gharkul has worked with special children from lower income groups, we have identified that our beneficiaries have a host of challenges to overcome that are potential barriers to their optimal growth and development. Our beneficiaries all of who are from lower income groups are prone to malnutrition, neglect or harsh parenting due to parental apathy, unawareness or inability to support them. A sizeable number of parents have low levels of education and fail to see the value in educating their child with special needs. Thus they may not be willing to invest an already meagre income on education. Additionally, parents are victims of stigma and shame and develop a low self-esteem and a sense of helplessness. This greatly effects their ability to promote the wellbeing of their child with special needs.
Pooja was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 12. Her family, unaware of what to do or how to care for her approached several schools with a hope for help, guidance. However they were disheartened to hear that the school would only enroll Pooja if a member of her family accompanied her during the school hours. The reason for this was that Pooja was hyperactive and not yet toilet trained.
The school’s condition was not a possibility for Pooja’s family who belonged to the lower socio economic group where each family members’ income was essential to make ends meet.
Pooja’s family received such responses from several schools leading them to conclude that keeping Pooja at home was the option they have. The family locked Pooja at home while they were at work and one of them returned in the afternoon to feed Pooja and left for work again. Pooja’s family was unaware of how to deal with her symptoms like screaming, biting, crying and her inability to communicate verbally.
It was only when Pooja turned 15 that her family heard about Gharkul through one of Gharkul’s awareness generation programs.