When Pranita Madkaikar invited me to experience' the self-advocate training workshop' that she was conducting, I was only too happy to accept. I had heard about this 5 weeks workshop that she and Charu Shah were organizing for special students/ mentors and was curious to know how the children had benefited from this program.
I reached the SBP, Centre for mentally challenged school at CBD and the session was on. The children were introducing themselves and the theme was ‘Voting and Elections’.
A group of about eight children (in the mock elections) sat together facing the audience. Each child was given a chance to make a speech; they tried to make promises like leaders, trying to express their will to bring about change when they were elected.
This exercise might be very easy for a normal child who is creative and spontaneous, but with special child it was an effort, it is tough when the thought process and the speech are not synchronized togather. Each child struggled to get his idea across, for a Cerebral Palsy child, the speech was slow and slurred and it was difficult to understand as she struggled with every word. Some just spoke few sentences and some just made few sounds, then there were some who were able to give a speech in 5-6 sentences but the remarkable point was that all children willingly took the mike to say something. Nobody was conscious about speaking on the mike.
That was followed by all children standing in queue, registering for the election, staining the finger, taking the printed paper with the picture of the contestants, standing behind the booth, stamping on the desired picture and dropping their vote in the ballot box.
The whole process was done so efficiently that one could never guess that how much effort and training was involved for them to be able to perform such an act with so much confidence and discipline.
When the children registered for this training, most of the children had no confidence to speak freely.
Hands-on corporate style training was imparted on important self advocacy skills like
- 1. Developing self esteem
- 2. Identifying ones strengths and limitations.
- 3. Listening
- 4. Getting to know each other
- 5. Making choices
- 6. Working together
- 7. Problem solving
- 8. Leadership
- 9. Public speaking
- 10. Reporting abuse
- 11. Health & Hygiene
Different games were played during the sessions to help children interact with each other. Different teaching aids like colored beads, musical instruments, kitchen utensils, picture postcards, fresh fruits and vegetables, and things used in daily life activities were used during the program.
The trainer would explain the activity, the members would be divided into groups, the trainer would pose a problem, children would be encouraged to find a solution, they would later have discussion and interaction in understanding the problem.
The member were encouraged to recollect activities held during the day and were encouraged to relate the learning from the activities
Remarkable positive changes were observed in the confidence levels and expressive abilities of all the self advocates.
The Navi Mumbai & Raigad Chapter of the SASI was officially launched on 21st October, 2011.
23 Adults with Intellectual disabilities from 7 Organizations from Navi Mumbai and Raigad took part in this program. These self advocates underwent a formal 5 week training for this purpose.
These weekly full day training programs conducted at Swami Brahmanand Pratishthan Special School, Belapur and Skills & Ability Special School, Nerul from 17th September to 15th October, 2011, were planned and conducted by Ms. Charu Shah and Ms. Pranita Madkaikar. 7 mentors (one from each of the participating Organizations) and three Volunteers were also an integral part of this training.
Formal elections were conducted and 6 Office Bearers and 2 members elected by the self advocates from amongst themselves took charge of the Navi Mumbai & Raigad Chapter of SASI from 21st October, 2011. The Mentors will continue to be with the team as facilitators, with the self advocates deciding the roadmap for the future. The volunteers too will help the team by maintaining liaison with external agencies.
Funding for operational expenses of this project is being provided by the Maharashtra Chapter of PARIVAAR (PARIVAAR SAHYADRI) and the Parents association of Swami Brahmanand Pratishthan Special School, Belapur. PARIVAAR is a National level Federation of associations of parents of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
SASI (Self-Advocates Society of India) is an NGO that pledges to open up a world of opportunity for people with developmental disabilities by educating its members, families and supporters, and the general public on the abilities of people with developmental/intellectual disabilities.
- - Communities will profit from the contributions of hard working citizens.
- - Families will benefit from the inclusion of their loved ones into their communities.
- - People with developmental disabilities will grow, building their self-respect and confidence in their ability to succeed.
All the children who took part in this program were given the certificate of participation