Shamili and I, Anushree, have written this report together, so you'll find inputs from both of us here.
Our reception at both REWA centers couldn't have been better. We were received at both places very promptly and our comforts were taken care of by the staff members. We visited the Leh centre of REWA on one Saturday, but it was a holiday for the children. Despite that all the staff members were there to greet us and brief us about what all the organisation does and the way it is done. We were given access to the books kept in the centre library.
Both David Sir and Naomi Ma'am made us feel right at home and the meals at the Leh centre were very well prepared and filling.
The staff quarters in Kargil were very clean and as we arrived while it was snowing, the rooms heaters were also prepared, so when we came, the room was very warm. The staff was very helpful throughout our stay in Kargil. We cooked food in the first week, but as the workload and cooking were not manageable for us the staff helped us in finding a nearby restaurant.
Honestly, our stay couldn't have been better at the Kargil centre. Everyone was very open and helpful.
At REWA Special school, we were of the opinion that the staff was very open and motivated. The Special teacher (Archo Ma'am) had a good rapport with the children. The children were being able to depend on her and trust her as was the Helper (Haseena) there. The children had a good environment to learn and grow in, however, it can be improved. The one thing we felt had great potential for improvement was limit setting in the classroom. There was a concern that the children had a slight problem following rules and some other limits like following certain established routines. Some other concerns were hitting each other, shouting at the teacher and sometimes hitting her too and not completing the class work or homework in certain times of the day. Hence, we worked a great deal at establishing limits in the classroom, by essentially doing three things
1. Restructuring the established routine by introducing the concept of "Angry time" where the children could hit, shout, kick and punch the physiotherapy ball by setting limits within the game too and reinforcing non-aggressive behavior throughout classroom.
2. By training the teacher in positive reinforcement strategies and the theory of Operant Conditioning, through a workshop for her to understand classroom management and create an optimal environment for learning.
3. BY practical demonstration of the use of "Angry time" and other positive reinforcement and other limit setting strategies during the period of our stay. Also, demonstrating easier and multi-modal ways of engaging the children in the learning process for better retention. This was not our area of expertise, as we do not specialize in special education and teaching strategies. However, we tried to practically demonstrate the use of phonemes and other games for mathematics.
Our recommendations for the betterment of the special school would be twofold:
1. Additional training for the teacher in terms of teaching strategies as many problems with retention were reported.
2. A mental health professional to be associated with the center who can sustain-ably create a mechanism of training for understanding children and the management of their behavior. The mental health professionals role in association with the parents would also be very important as during the parent teacher meet, some of the parents had expectations that their children will be "normal" with "growing age and maturity". Such misconceptions would be needed to be clarified so that the child is not put under pressure to get "normal" or perform "at par" with other children. Also, if the behavior management strategies are kept similar at home and school, it would be easier for the children to follow and learn. The practice of hitting and scolding the child were firmly discouraged by us as it corroborates with our personal stances and the protection of Child rights against any sort of abuse. An education about basic child rights and how easily they are abused in India should also be a discussion which can be encouraged within the staff. However, to our delight, we found no staff in the special school or the physiotherapists use scolding or hitting (negative punishment strategies ) the child to discipline them.
- In a few sentences and in detailed reports that follow, it can be seen that essentially our work was with the children in the special school, their parents the teacher there, the patients in the physiotherapy center, their parents, the physiotherapists, the children in Munshi Habibullah school and the teachers of the school.
1. With the children in the Special school, our work had impact on their behavior in classroom and basically in regulation of their emotions, talking about them, lessening of aggressive behavior towards each other and the teacher. Our work also had an impact on their behavior management at home as their parents were educated about the various possibilities of managing their behavior other than beating them up.
2. With the special teacher, our work had an impact on the perspective that she and the helper do not have to take the beating or the yelling the children may present with. The perspective that this would not help the child in the world outside the classroom and how limit setting is also important for the safety and protection of the child was discussed. The work had impact on how the teacher then began to manage the classroom.
3. With the patients in the Physiotherapy wing, our work had an impact in terms of identification of the comorbid developmental delays and psychological concerns they may be presenting with. The Early intervention therapy was done during our stay which impacted the training of parents to better deal with their child.
4. With the Physiotherapists, we did work for identification of developmental disorders and delays and taught them an assessment device called the Denver Scale. This was done as the Physiotherapists had very good rapport with the parents and also went on field visits. Hence, our work impacted their understanding of delays and other concerns so that they can identify the concerns the child is presenting and also intervene and train the parents of what can be done.
5. With the teachers in the school, our work had an impact on how they view children, the phenomenon of Bullying and classroom management strategies. Our work impacted creation of a mechanism in the school to deal with the problem of Bullying.
6. Our work also impacted the understanding and creation of intolerance for Bullying in children from classes 1 to 8. What exactly can be done to address Bulllying and what they could do if they face it or see it was discussed in a series of workshops with them.
- As of now, we do not have any connection in any Physiotherapy/ Occupational therapist training institutes from where you could access volunteers. We would definitely try to search for some and let you know. However, our biggest recommendation is to have one or more mental health professionals like Psychologists, Psychiatric social workers, Masters with Social work in Mental health and any other and for that you could get in touch with our college Tata Institute of Social Sciences, who may send your volunteers. If you are interested I could send you a contact of one of our Faculty members so that you can get in touch with them. Any more information, will let you know soon :)
Last but not the least, work with your organization and the lovely staff and children there was an experience we would cherish a lifetime. The people were so open and motivated that we did not have any loss of motivation! It was wonderful working with your organization and we had recommended your organization to many people and juniors for work in the last one month period and if they can, then more. We would definitely help in spreading the word, both for the need and the scope of work that can be done and the memories that can be treasured.
Thank you loads for giving us an opportunity to work you all :)