While Anandini was registered in the year 2007, its work in the field of disability started in 1993. Over the last 27 years, Anandini has been involved in diverse activities and has diversified further over time. Starting out as a special educator, working with children with disabilities and their families- working with children with developmental disabilities like Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual disability and other disabilities. Working with children with high support needs, those with multiple disabilities, was a huge learning. Anandini firmly believes that children with disabilities teach the ‘teacher’ more than the ‘teacher’ can ever hope to teach. Along with the work with children, there was constant interaction and connect with the families. Listening to them, understanding the challenges they face and getting an insight into their lives created a new path in Anandini’s work- the path that led to Research.
The research that Anandini has been involved with has stemmed from the work at the grassroots- with children and families.
Working with families and children with high support needs, the one question upper-most in the minds of parents remains ‘what after me?’ Research in this area involved having in-depth interviews with parents and understanding their concerns, documenting their experiences and the plans they had in mind. With information gathered from the ground, looking at the other dimensions linked to this, primarily the financial aspects and then organizing meetings with concerned stakeholders to find a way forward.
Most of the research Anandini has been involved with centres around the Rights of children with disabilities. Rights with respect to Education, Health , Protection and Safety, and Legal rights have been at the core of Anandini’s research. The right to live with their family and within the society and not to be isolated in residential care facilities has been an area of deep concern.
The research studies and projects that Anandini has been involved with either as Anandini or along with or for other organisations has led to the path of information sharing through Training sessions, Workshops and Seminars. The end purpose of the research does not realize with the research study being printed but in taking the learning’s forward and sharing it with the stakeholders.
The research studies and discussions during the training sessions and seminars also serve as a base for raising issues and concerns with policy makers and for creating a platform for advocacy. All this has not been done as Anandini, but along with other organizations and professionals, especially Astha, a disability-based civil society organization, of repute in Delhi. Anandini’s journey was born out of the experience of working with my mentor, Ms Radhika M Alkazi, Astha’s amazing Founder, Director.
ANANDINI’s CURRENT WORK
Anandini has been working directly with children with disabilities since 1993. Over time it expanded its scope to include working with other organizations and professionals who could use the strategies in reaching out to the children associated with them. This is the best way to widen the reach as well as ensure inclusion of all children with diverse abilities.
The organizations that Anandini has been associated with in the recent past are Astha and SSMI. Both these organizations work with children who come from the socially and economically marginalized strata of society. They work in the urban slums and communities to extend quality education and information about rights to children as well as families and through its various initiatives, link these families with the various schemes, facilities and programmes – ensuring that they are included in the mainstream. It is with them that Anandini has worked to try and weave in strategies for teaching children with different learning abilities. The aim is to ensure that all children learn, are taught in ways that enable them to learn best, are provided all the reasonable supports that are necessary and are supported to enable full participation and enable them to learn with their peers. The experience from the field, of working directly with children with disabilities feeds directly into working out the programme that would help the children learn, work out the teaching-learning material, incorporating multisensory techniques in teaching and working out the other supports the child may require. Ensuring that teaching-learning material is available in accessible formats is essential. Anandini’s has had a long term association, over many research projects with SAKSHAM, a Delhi based civil society organization that works on ensuring persons with disabilities have access to devices and technolgy to ensure that they are able to access information in accessible formats. Anandini is also instrumental in creating these linkages between these organizations which has benefits.
One of the recent initiatives was to design a READING PROGRAMME for children with disabilities who come to the ASTHA centres. The aim was to enable children learn to read and write. Children with disabilities who have been enrolled in mainstream schools by the Astha team, often get lost in the crowd in the classroom. Teachers are unable to give individual attention to the child and many are unable to read and write even the very basics. The reading programme was conceptualized to teach children to read, write, comprehend in a systematic, step-by-step manner. Focus was both on building receptive as well as expressive language skills. Sessions and discussions are held with special educators and the team working directly with the children as they are the ones who implement this programme. Regular sessions are done with the teachers to work out the steps for implementing this and individual concerns are built into this; individualizing the programme to suit the needs of each child. Individualizing the programme means that the teaching material is planned and created keeping in mind the needs of the learner, the seating arrangement is worked out and the duration of the session along with all the reasonable accommodations and supports the child requires are worked out. The content is tailored and sequenced according to the level of difficulty; the amount of content done in a specific time period and the flow of the content is worked out. The teaching aids are made and presented in a way and in formats that are fully accessible to the child. Multi-sensory techniques are used to ensure that children comprehend it and learn best in the way that suits their needs.
Anandini’s Founder Director has been working closely with the Core team at SSMI, comprising - the Director and the Coordinator of the Primary School among others. The aim is to work out plans for the children with Learning disabilities, with other disabilities and children who are unable to cope with the class at par with their peers. Many are children who are first generation learners or have difficulty following English or those who travel back and forth frequently between Delhi and their native village- resulting in absence from school and subsequent gaps in education.
The work involves working with teachers and devising strategies to set up support systems for children who require intensive support. It involves working out both long-term as well as short-term strategies for the children. This will enable them to receive the required learning inputs through suitable teaching-methodology besides the reasonable accommodations that they require. Planning is required both at the individual level as well as for the group or class.