Special School and Rehabilitation Center in India: Caring for Special Children and Young Adults

by Himabindu Venkatakrishnan on  September 8, 2014 at 5:18 PM Medindia Exclusive - Interviews and In depth Reports
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Comprehensive medical and educational rehabilitation for physically and mentally challenged persons is most convenient when all services are available under one roof. This is a great benefit for parents and caregivers, who are guided in the right direction by a team of professionals taking care of all the needs of the children with disabilities.
  • Sr.Mary Theodore
  • Special School Class Room
  • One to One Coaching
  • Students in Wheel Chair
  • Occupational Therapy
  • MITHRA Lunch Room
  • Aerobics for special children

A little away from the hustle-bustle of the busy main roads of Annanagar, Chennai in South India, is located a home for persons with physical and mental disabilities.

"MITHRA", a Sanskrit word for "Friendship", extends a warm hand of friendship to the physically and mentally challenged persons with special needs, students like those afflicted with polio, cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation, Down's syndrome.

What makes MITHRA's contribution to society unique?

The services offered at MITHRA include Special school, Occupational and Physiotherapy, Speech Therapy and Vocational training. An Out-Patient department for general medicine, psychiatry and dental consultation is open to general public. MITHRA offers advice and guidance regarding government grants and concessions to the disabled persons.

To top it all, residential facilities are also offered to the children who come under the care of the institute and to their mothers who wish to stay with their children to avail the training. Boys and girls live in segregated dormitories and all of them come together to contribute towards maintaining the hostel and dining hall. MITHRA also grows a kitchen garden of its own that caters to the dietary needs of the residents.

Currently, about 150 children with intellectual disability and cerebral palsy receive services and training at MITHRA. Among these, 80 children are residential, some of whose parents are also given accommodation. About 45 children come in as day scholars for a comprehensive intervention program to undergo physiotherapy, occupational therapy and training in self-help skills and vocational rehabilitation. The remaining come as out-patients for therapy alone.

How and when was MITHRA established?

MITHRA Rehabilitation Center was established on 19th March 1977, founded by Sr. Mary Theodore, in commemoration of the birth centenary celebration of St. Thomas, the Apostle in India. Sr. Theodore was inspired to do something worthwhile for the most neglected section of the society - the physically and mentally challenged children, especially those who are born in low income families. She served as the first area director for Special Olympics in India and was the first President of the State Level Federation of Organizations for persons with disabilities. Sr. Theodore passed away in the year 2012, leaving behind a landmark along with a dedicated staff that will carry on her services for a long time.

MITHRA is a registered society. The general council members elect the Managing Committee and Dr. Sukumar is the Hon. Secretary and Executive Director in-charge of all day to day activities.

MITHRA Rehabilitation Center is an institute that offers various services and training to the physically and mentally disabled children and adults.

Closer look at how MITHRA operates

The social worker in MITHRA first takes in the history, background information of the child and provides counseling to the parents regarding the disability, ways of handling, what can be done, etc. Then the child is referred to the various departments of MITHRA, like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, Speech Therapy and special school sections. The parents are also given assistance to obtain concessions for train and bus travel. Placement issues, interactions with siblings and neighbors are some of the topics that are involved in counseling.

The special school consists of various classes, with one teacher handling a maximum of nine students. Students in each class are of a mixed group, with various levels of intellectual disability grouped in together. This kind of categorization has facilitated the kids to mingle with each other and also find joy in each other's achievements thus encouraging them to perform better.

Curriculum for 'special needs' students

The curriculum for the special needs students is based on individual needs of the child, and aims to realize a child's potential towards academic and functional growth. An array of toys in the toy library includes a lot of educational toys that also kindle the various sense organs with their bright colors and texture. Play therapy sessions are an integral part of the daily activities with various indoor and outdoor games.

The Occupational therapy department caters to the occupational needs of about 50 children, coming in twice or thrice a week as per their requirement. Desensitizing the sense organs is the main goal of occupational therapy and the therapist uses various kinds of equipments, toys and objects to make the child feel the environment around him or her. A special room for visual and auditory stimulation incorporates colored lighting systems and various kinds of sounds and is the main feature of the department of occupational therapy. Cognitive skills such as thinking, memory, perception and problem solving are encouraged in the children for attaining optimum well being and independence. The day students are accompanied by their parents, while the residential students are brought in by the care-givers of the center.

The physiotherapy department also attends to the needs of about 60 children, to provide support in standing, exercises to strengthen muscles and other activities. Those who are obese are taught aerobics to manage their weight. Various equipments and supportive stands with braces can be found in the physiotherapy department that helps the children achieve maximum mobility. The physiotherapy department also offers shortwave diathermy, wax bath, traction, interferential therapy, ultra sound, etc for out-patients who come with orthopedic referrals.

Caring for children with special needs -Team work among MITHRA's staff

MITHRA's dedicated staff in the Special School, physiotherapy and occupational therapy and the vocational training departments is very much committed towards their goal of bringing the best out of the special children. They proudly display the achievements of their students, who come up with great display of colors in a picture or a beautiful piece of embroidery work. They are patient and openly show their pleasure when it comes to encouraging the children. They are also genuinely caring towards the students and keep them busy with activities based on individual performance abilities.

Vocational training for older 'special'children

Vocational training for older children who are intellectually or physically disabled is also provided at MITHRA. Various beautiful designs of candles are made by them with the guidance of a qualified trainer. Embroidery is taught to students who then come up with beautifully done cushion covers and jute bags. Other things like envelop making, block printing, weaving, etc are also taught to the disabled older children. Tailoring is taught to girls coming from low income groups coming from the nearby areas. The end products are sold in stalls that are arranged in exhibitions and colleges. Some corporate bodies also encourage these stalls to be arranged in the various offices so that the children can showcase their ability and bring in contributions to their institutes.

MITHRA Rehabilitation Center is one of the special education schools which caters to all challenged children irrespective of the economic status of the admitted child. The contributions are made by parents according to their income status. While these contributions from the parents take care of about one-fifth of the total expenditure per month, various donors come in to offer help, whether in terms of cash or kind. MITHRA invites volunteers from various colleges, National Social Service groups, Social workers students, etc to volunteer in any way and involve themselves in the service of these special children. The donations to MITHRA are eligible for tax exemption.

Special care for grown up girls and women with intellectual disability

Apart from the above mentioned services, MITHRA also takes in some of the grown up girls and women with intellectual disability under its wings to provide accommodation, food and most importantly, protect them from the unwanted elements of the society. Parents of the students report that they have never been so happy because their children are taken care of very well here. They feel at home and find a lot of improvement in the child's ability not only in terms of communication and learning but also in exploring the world outside and within themselves. Educable children are trained to appear for 10th and 12th grade exams under the National Institute of Open School system.

MITHRA stands true to its name, a friend indeed, because it extends its hands of friendship to those who are in need.

Getting in touch with MITHRA: Mithra Rehabilitation Centre, D-171 R.V.Nagar, Anna nagar, Chennai 600102. INDIA.
P: +91(44)26633708 Organization Website:

Source: Medindia

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