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Priya Motiani

IWB Blogger

Empowering Fathers of Special Kids with Psychologist Nisha Jain

  • IWB Post
  •  June 19, 2015

As part of my internship at Jaipur Women Blog, I was required to take up a campaign. So, I brainstormed to come up with sensitive topics, and ended up thinking about disabilities, or should I say, this-ability. Being a women’s blog, we write a lot about mothers. But I was determined to walk the road not taken. Through my project, I decided to focus on fathers of disabled kids and explore their relationship with their child. After all, it’s Father’s Day on June 21! Hence, came in existence, “Special Daddy”, JWB’s latest campaign.

To kick start the campaign, I went down to Disha School for special kids, all equipped with a pen, notebook and a bunch of questions, to have a chat with Ms. Nisha Jain, Psychologist. As I entered the reception, I was stunned to see the remarkable creativity of Disha’s kids. My eyes were glued to the paintings and craftwork on the walls. Sheer talent I must say, which was enough to get me rummaging in my purse for money to take home the few of these pieces.  

So dear daddies, read on for gainful insights from our conversation with Ms. Nisha.

What got you interested in Psychology?

I did my Counselling Diploma in Psychology from the University of Jamia, Delhi. During my internship at Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust, Delhi, I became more and more interested in this field. Psychology is multi-dimensional. You get to work as a psychologist with a child, or develop innovative educational ideas with teachers, or counsel parents. But most importantly, you get to facilitate the interaction between parents and the society, thereby serving as a chain or a loop.

So, how did you end up joining Disha School?

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My husband is in a transferable job. Last year November, as my husband got transferred to Rajasthan, I sent my resume to Disha School and have been working here ever since.

Tell us about the major disabilities that you are working with here.

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At Disha, we basically deal with Neurological Disorders. Prominent among them are Intellectual Impairment, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and Down syndrome. Neurological disorders imply multiple disabilities such as problems in speech, communication, cognitive and intellectual abilities, reading, writing, etc.

A child is first assessed in home management by our team of experts. We are affiliated to National Institute of Open Schooling. We also provide functional academics, which involve education required on a day-to-day basis, like measurement, weights, environmental studies; and vocational training. The therapies are also crafted through fun activities such as throwing ball, bubble making etc.

Bubble-making! I’m reminiscing my childhood now!

Please narrate the success story of one of the kids.

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There is a kid named Nandkishore. He was studying in a regular school previously, but his parents weren’t able to understand the reason behind his incapability in academics. He joined Disha when he was ten and left a couple of months back at the age of 24. He is intellectually impaired, but he is pretty good at sports, skating, particularly. So we treated him with functional therapies and trained him in sports, for which he has also won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in World Summer Olympics in 2011 at Athens. His father has set up a plywood store for him, and today, with the help of his uncle, he is taking care of the shop. We regularly counsel his parents as well as his uncle.

Coming to the main protagonists of this campaign. Fathers! What role does a father play and how important is it in grooming of special kids?

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A father should spend quality time with his special child. Usually, after a long day at work, spending time with children serves as a de-stressor or booster for fathers. Just because you have a special kid, spending time with him/her should not be taken as a burden.

Try and plan your activities around the child. Spend time in the mornings, take him/her for therapy sessions, engage in activities like swimming, dancing, book-reading, story-telling, picnics etc. Most importantly, let your child make choices, for example, while shopping. This will develop his/her cognitive and reasoning skills. Share responsibilities equally with your wife.

The fact of a child’s disability comes as a trauma for parents. But often it is observed that mothers accept it more easily than fathers. Suggest some tips on how to help special daddies deal with the truth about their child’s disability?

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Increase your connectivity with the family. Take the time out to engage in child’s therapeutic sessions to gain a better understanding of the child’s condition. My advice to fathers is that as a parent, you need to accept your child first. Once you have completely embraced your child with his/her disability, the society will also start accepting him/her. Since the early childhood, you should start indulging your child in the community, rather than keeping him/her away from it. Through the right exposure, the child will understand how to react.

So, in your time here, you might have observed inspiring relationships of fathers with their kids? Why don’t you tell us about any one of them?

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There is this girl, who is now 18 years old. She is suffering from Intellectual Impairment, that too of a severe category. Her mother is working, and her father has taken up the entire responsibility. He attends every session, discusses every activity, even menstruation, with his daughter. He has trained her a lot – and as a result there has been a huge development in her behaviour and mannerisms. He has also opted for voluntary retirement, so as to focus entirely on the daughter. We often quote their story, and call them for group meetings, to inspire and motivate other fathers.

*She had this smile on her face when she told us about this girl…the kind of smile that one gets when they say something they genuinely feel happy about.*

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I’m sure it must be a tricky task counselling parents. Share with us your experience.

Every month parent-teacher meetings are held wherein we discuss the progress of a child. Also training programmes are organized every three months. Most of the times, the parents of special kids prefer to stay in denial. They don’t want to accept that their child is disabled, and that he/she will remain that way throughout his/her life. They come to us seeking cure. But, disability can only be made better, not healed. So, we counsel them that only training can change their special child’s future. Once they accept their child’s condition, they will be in a better state to look for good options for him/her.

A child’s home environment undoubtedly plays a crucial role in the development. Suggest how can parents develop a suitable home environment?

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Stop blaming! Quite often, parents start blaming each other for their child’s disability, which spoils environment of a house. They should support each other and divide the work. They should be empathetic rather than sympathetic towards their child and treat him/her like any other normal kid without making him/her conscious of the disability. Otherwise, the child might develop behavioural issues such as temper tantrums, disobedience, restlessness, and may become very demanding. Also, they should assign simple routine tasks to the child.

Tell us about your personal vision for these kids. Do you also have any suggestions for changes in the current system?

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I feel there is a need to increase sensitization about disabilities and special kids, especially among the sub-urban and rural areas. We are very thankful to workers like you who are bringing this issue up on social blogs. Maybe, by reading about it, people will understand that these kids also deserve a place in the society, and will accept them.

*Smiles*

Nowadays, education system has made social service a mandatory part of the curriculum, due to which, students are devoting their time to NGOs. We are happy that at least the upcoming generation is sensitized towards this delicate issue. Also, in this era of Internet, it is not very difficult to find where such specialized services for special kids are available.

I went with the aim of getting the first story for my campaign, but returned with much more than what I was looking for. I gained a totally new perspective of a father-child relationship. What about you? How do you plan celebrating Father’s Day? Tell us in the comments.

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