What’s going on at the Tamahar trust

Today is just a normal Tuesday at the Tamahar trust. The children, staff and parents are following the same routine to reach their weekly and monthly goals. Yet, as I sit here writing this blog, I know that incredible things are happening around me. I could here a child cry with destess, but the crying faded, quickly replaced by the soothing tones of the music therapist. Other children are in school, learning Kannada or stitching. Each child is being taught different skills with different levels of support to allow them optimum success.

Downstairs, the kindergarten children are in play therapy. They are receiving one on one support to reach their individuals goals through playing with toys, teachers and reading. I can hear a child imitating their teachers animal noises!

As I walk through the school, I pass a small class of six learning Kannada- writing the alphabet and sounding it out. A similar class is taking place upstairs with different children.
I walk upstairs and am soothed by the gentle humming of the music teacher as she uses sounds and music to calm the children and encourage speech. I walk in to the room to see five young children. Two girls have laid their hands on the teachers knees and they giggle as the teacher places her hands gently on top of theirs. It is the sound of comfort and happiness which warms my soul.

The last room that I venture into is also a classroom. The children here are learning how to stitch and I sit with a boy who is struggling to thread his needle. He thanks me for his help and I point out which hole he should put he needle into next. We carry on like this for an hour and he completes the boarder around his piece of fabric. When it is completed, the fabric will have a green border with his name in yellow thead in the centre. He is so proud of his work and I am proud of him too.

Every day, every child here accomplishes something for us all to be proud of

Giving a child a chance

Every child here is so different, but there is no lack of wonderful opportunities to allow them all to succeed. Last Tuesday, I was pleased to be invited to play badminton with the children. A mother and I took four young boys to the local sport centre to play. There, the boys were assisted by professional sports coaches who ran a short warm up. The boys were then divided into two groups based on their abilities and taught accordingly. One group played over the court, trying to hit the shuttlecock over the net or catching it when it was thrown. The other group of boys could not play as well and so focused on how to hit the shuttlecock.

It was great to see the children be given an opportunity to do something that might not be available at home and also to allow them to succeed in something that is none academic. They thoroughly enjoyed the experience, laughing throughout. I could see their confidence and social levels rising throughout the hour and it is safe to say that we were all disappointed when it was time to leave!

It is vital to do these activities with the children, to develop their motor skills but also to improve their self esteem, which is so important. No one can function well in society without some form of confidence in their own capabilities, whether that be in schooling or sport. Experiences like this one are enjoyable and allow the children to develop socially

Inspiring stories

I want to take this opportunity to tell you about all of the little things that happen here, on a daily basis. They will be short narratives of things that I have seen happen at the Tamahar trust and the ways in which the children and staff achieve their goals.

A few weeks ago, I saw the beautiful calming effects of yoga therapy. One particular child was very distressed that day. He could not concentrate on the yoga and was struggling with fits. The teacher decided to tailor the class to him based on this and concentrated on vocal instead of physical yoga. After the half an hour session the boy had calmed considerably and was able to continue with the rest of his day.

Another wonderful story I have to share is one of a boy with cerebral palsy. He cannot walk, stand or move his arms well but he is an intelligent, charming young boy. In yoga therapy he was supported whilst standing to develop his leg muscles. Once standing, he insisted on dancing with all of the adults in the room! They say don’t run before you can walk, but maybe you can dance before you walk? This child’s humour and optimism warms everyone around him.

Getting to know you

Every child is unique and special in their own way and that means that every child works differently. Some children are only interested in music toys, whereas others thrive during complicated tasks like jigsaws.
When I first arrived at the Tamahar trust, I did not know any of the children. I couldn’t pronounce their names properly and didn’t know their ages or family history. Yet, I started working with the children and noting everything about them that I could. This process taught me the true value of knowing and understanding a child and how important that is.

After a few weeks of working with the same children on a daily basis, I came to know certain children quite well. Knowing what they can do and what they will do are the most important things to know because every child needs encouragement to progress. Yet, pressuring a child to do something that they cannot do, can be extremely demoralising for the child. I often find the children are extremely capable but struggle with tiredness or just don’t want to do the activity that you had planned. In times like this, it is important to adapt to the child’s needs and use your knowledge of the child to provide a fun or easier activity, so that the child can participate effectively.

I have come to know two girls particularly well and under guidance have watched their development over several weeks. One of these girls has been learning to raise her arms, which has taken a lot of support and encouragement from me and other staff, but being able to watch her get stronger very day is wonderful. This particular child often gets tired quickly but I have been taught how to watch out for this and have now worked out that singing and music aids this situation. Realisations like this take a while- I tried a lot of other things before singing! Yet, it is this dedication to truly understanding the children and all of their ways that makes the Tamahar staff so special. It was truly wonderful to help this child to achieve one of her goals but it was the support and teaching of the staff that allowed me to do that.

The other young girl who I have gotten to know quite well, is a very bubbly, loving young girl. She is always smiling and that makes me so happy! When I first started working with her, I was purely trying to increase her imitation in play but soon found that she loves colours and is always trying to say their names. So, for the next few days, we worked on several different activities together with coloured blocks or jigsaw pieces and I would tell her the colour names. After a few days, she was repeating the words perfectly! I was so proud.

All of the children here have barriers in the way of their development and learning, yet, their ability and desire to overcome these barriers is truly inspiring

Everyday miracles- The Tamahar trust

Every child has individual needs but some children’s needs are much greater. So what happens to these children? Often, they struggle greatly with schooling and fall quickly behind the rest of the class. These children have special needs and the Tamahar trust exists to make sure no child is left behind or excluded from schooling because of these needs. The Tamahar Trust of Bangalore offers schooling and therapy for babies upwards. The children here have various developmental disorders that require a series of constant and intense therapy sessions for at least a year. The aim of this is to alleviate some of the symptoms of these disorders and develop the children’s personal and interpersonal skills. Most children have one to one support to take part in yoga, art, dance and music therapy as well as regular schooling.

As a new intern at the Tamahar trust, it is my wish to use this blog to explore the beauty of the work that is done here. Whilst I only work at one of the three centres in Bangalore , I am sure that the work done by the Trust is as committed and supportive in each of the centres as it is here.

The Trust, founded by Vishali Pai, is run by a group of committed therapists and teachers, whilst being supported by the mothers of the children. Where possible, the mothers of the children that attend the center volunteer here to offer the one to one support to the children that I previously mentioned. This has the mutual advantage of allowing the women to develop skills and techniques for working with their own children. In my work day, I will dedicate myself to fully exploring all aspects of the center and wish to write about the every day miracles that happen here- a smile, a laugh, a child’s first word. To some, these may seem like simple things but to a mother, or a teacher, or a child who has been working their body and mind for months, that simple step is a small miracle

Normalcy is Overrated!!

This is how I feel each day when I go to Tamahar. Each day I understand life a little more..
It hasn’t been easy working here. Its an emotional roller coaster. Someday’s I feel – why teach these kids..to what end. And someday’s I come back with my head spinning with more ideas.

But the futility of mainstream education.. at least for the first 5-6 years is evident with each day as we work towards preparing them for the world and looking for that spark in their eyes..when they can match an alphabet to the picture or when they can point out to the correct answer for 5+2..

But then the pure joy and bliss comes when the kids actually function as a bunch of ‘normal’ kids..waiting for their turn to answer, or to throw the dice and count the objects, or to be the BIG lion trapped in the ‘dupatta that acts as a net’ so that a small mouse can come and cut away the net.

When one of them decides to take the lead in the morning after the prayers.. He/she goes..Stand at ease! Attention! Always twice before saying.. National anthem begins. And flawlessly in their pronunciations they sing the anthem with pride and enthusiasm.

And so many times I have seen people at movies munching on popcorn or get fidgety during the national anthem. These kids can probably teach them a thing or two about discipline and having fun while learning.
How then are they different from any other child?

Probably because our education system puts them in structured categories.

If ‘Tejaswini’ has difficulty in learning.. She is labelled as child with specific learning disabilities. I have difficulty in remembering dates..or doing simplest of Math calculations. I too then am a child with specific learning disability.
And am sure most of us are.

That’s all there is to know!!

Our mainstream educationists have simply not cracked teaching in a manner that each child can understand.. Unfortunately there is no single way. But the system also does not allow for adapting to various learning capabilities of a child. (‘Normal’ kids included)

I don’t know what to ask for, what blessings to give. For them love is enough.

But my heart goes out to the mothers and fathers..their families. The kids only need love..but sometimes the mothers need more. They also get tired. They loose focus. They wish for a different scenario.

And while its easy for me to ignore a child when required. I cannot expect same understanding from the parents day in and day out.

Tamahar plans to start a respite care centre.. Which will care for the kids while the parents can take time out.
Please send blessings for that dream to come through. Kids are taken care of. Parents need caring far more.

~Prarthana Patil

All about July

July was a busy month at Tamahar. After settling down in June, July saw a lot of activities for the children, staff and mothers!

A soft-skill/leadership training was started on 12th under the guidance of Mr. Magesh Moorthy, who is a well known NLP practitioner and trainer. The staff has enjoyed this on-going training and has participated heartily, asking for more!

27th, Take A Break Respite Care center of the Sacchivya Trust, had an Open House to introduce Yoga, Art Classes, Dance Classes as a part of the recreation program. This is supported by Tamahar Trust and a lot of parents got an opportunity to witness and get answers about the above activities. We have an enthusiastic teacher group working on these activities for all children with special needs.

The same day, a Flea Market was held by mothers of children with special needs at the Tamahar premises. There were exciting items on sale, a healthier twist to the normal Pani-puri, quiling (Paper) jewelry, chutneys and chivdas and yummy parfaits! The event was enjoyed by all, so much so, that there is a demand to have it every month!

Kalasha awards and after…..

It’s been a week since the Inner Wheel Bangalore West gave the “Kalasha” awards. They are given to Women of Substance to celebrate Women’s Day! This award honors and recognizes achievements and contribution of women. A brain child of former President, Inner Wheel, West, Mrs. Seetha, this is an honor bestowed since 13 years! Loved what she spoke about the award! She mentioned how women work without getting due recognition, how in the old days, it was not thought appropriate to praise good work! How she felt good when some of her contribution was recognized! So true, it’s a norm to not mention achievements, that’s how we grow up. Achievements are expected to be part of life, just there, not to be celebrated! I felt awkward getting the award. And here’s why!

There were 3 awardees, one Mrs. Prashantha who has been working the field of Visual impairment and providing housing and jobs for girls with visual impairment, Mrs. Hema Srinivas, founder of the Saranga Trust, working in the educational sector for underprivileged children and me. Both women were around and doing work for at least 3 decades! Did I deserve to be on the same platform as them?

Tamahar is not a one-woman army! It’s reached it’s place because of the contributions from so many people. All the children who come there, their parents, all the staff who work there. The trustees who have faith in us and all the people who have supported us with cash and kind. I had a vision when I founded Tamahar, but it needed this solid backing to function. I am just so glad that we found it! I salute all the people involved in making Tamahar what it is at the moment and the ones that will take it far. I sincerely want to share the Kalasha award given to me with all these people and let them know that their contributions haven’t gone unnoticed!

Does Tamahar deserve this award? I think it does! Now, the challenge is to have many more Tamahars and support many more children and their families!

What’s our USP?

It’s so difficult in today’s age if one is not up there with the lingo and the terms used when networking! USP for example, I had heard about it but wasn’t sure what it meant! Till yesterday that is. And then it struck, Tamahar’s USP?? If one wants to get an article written about any product, there should be a “unique USP” or else the newspapers look elsewhere! Every time I spoke to any journalist, the first question was, how is Tamahar different from the others. Well, I can think of many points, but did that count?

Yesterday, when I was thinking about some of the cuties at Tamahar, it suddenly struck me, Tamahar’s USP, it was right there in front of me! We treat children coming to Tamahar as children! Not as children with special needs, or children with brain damage, or “Autistics” or “Cerebral Palsied” or “Mentally Retarded” or I can go on and on and on!

Our therapies do not divide the child’s ability and learning time into “Time for Speech”, “Time for Hand functions”, “Time for Physical Exercise”, or “Time for Learning”!! Our children learn to “listen” and “speak”, “move their bodies”, and “coordinate eye-hand movements”, learn to “look around”, “memorize”, “almost at the same time. Each individual intervention session includes use of the total brain! How simple and how very effective it is! Our babies are progressing at an amazing rate. Some are getting ready to join Special Schools for academics, some are ready to enter Pre-school programs at regular inclusive schools! And, all this in a couple of years time! Some of the children came to Tamahar when their developmental age, or what is known as their ability to perform, was 9 months of development! To think that they were able to bridge a gap of 3-6 years in just 24 months tells us a lot of the ability of the brain to learn, given the correct conditions!

That is Tamahar’s USP and I want to shout out loud over rooftops! Is anyone listening?

My ode to Parents

Continuing on my journey to start Tamahar! I am often asked what made me want to start Tamahar. For one, it was destined! And then, the other reason! On my way to a wiser me, I had made many mistakes and this is my attempt at making right what had not been in the first round! I am grateful for the very many experiences I had, that now have made me a better person, a better therapist.

Parents are the core of any training or treatment one gives a child, and they therefore need to be at the center-stage of any rehabilitation process. I had been through many experiences where parents were told to be “just parents”, not therapists! Now I know, how wrong that is! Parents are the child’s first therapists and they need to be equipped with the knowledge of how to deal with their child!

Children with special needs are often treated as though they are robots, no heart, no brain! Again, how wrong we are! The only thing they need is a way to express themselves, and we can learn so much about them! What I realized was that parents just wanted someone to help decipher what the children had to say. At Tamahar, we do just that. We help us understand the child and then in turn, help the child in understanding us! And like I said, parents are the core, so they are very much a process in it, not just a part of the process.