‘Parents meet at Ankur Vidyamandir, an inclusive school (3)

(This is Part 3 of a three part piece.)

A theme picked from an interview for the 'What is care?' campaign.

A theme picked from an interview for the ‘What is care?’ campaign.

 

I had been listening, observing and making notes thus far. I noted for example, that parents of children with disabilities spoke of the discomfort they sometimes feel when out in public spaces with their kids.

One mother particularly spoke of how other children in the park look strangely at her child and do not play with him. She explained that they cover up and compensate for this hurtful attitude by playing together with their child, so that he does not miss playing with other children and does not notice their uneasiness with him.

 

So when it was my time to speak, I started by asking them if they remember a film released in 2004, called ‘Main hoon na’. Everyone raised their hands and there was many a ‘yes’. Every person present at this gathering had seen this film.

So then, I asked them if they could tell me the name of a recent release that they have seen. There was silence. They looked stumped. Some began to nod their heads, they had understood where I was going with this. Then someone said ‘Dangal’ and someone else said ‘Sultan’. So I asked why this gap happened, between their sharp memories of a 2004 film which they have all seen, and now 2017, when they can barely recall what is showing in a hall and none of them has recently seen a film. Someone answered that ‘a kid happened’, at which there was smiling agreement from the others.

Expressing the thought that long term care is not just and individual or family issue, but a societal issue.

Expressing the thought that long term care is not just an individual or family issue, but a societal issue.

 

This led us to talk about the challenges of leading an ordinary life, doing ordinary things, watching a film in a theatre as a family, going to a park, a restaurant. A parent said they had experienced the irritation and anger of others at a cinema hall because their child with special needs behaved differently than was expected, was noisy, or spoke loudly or cried.

Strangers lost their tempers. It was easier not to go to a hall to watch a film.

Then we moved on to discuss what it takes to acknowledge and accept that we are all different and then to make space for all of us.

 

I requested a parent to volunteer to be part of a quick game. This parent had said, in the earlier session with Shalini, that years ago she had enjoyed sketching and painting. I took a sheet of paper, she took a sheet of paper, and as Madhuri volunteered to keep time, we made images on the theme ‘a human being’ – in 30 seconds. I drew three rectangles one on top of the other in increasing sizes top to bottom. I was done. She made a lovely complex sketch with many stick figures and sketched an environment around them as well. The sketches were passed around for all to see and we discussed the simple truth of the different ways in which we all see, experience and express our thoughts and feelings on the same thing. I said that she had sketched a far more complex understanding than I had, but both of us had the right to have our drawings up on the same wall.

 

A thought shared during the 'What is care?' campaign.

A thought emerging from the ‘What is care?’ campaign.

We discussed the importance of changes needed around us to achieve such acceptance of diversity, in the attitudes of people, in the environment we live in, in the ways in which society tends to view anything that is different from the socially constructed, accepted norm. We discussed how most often the parent of a child with particular support needs takes on the responsibility to do everything and compensate for the support that is not available from the people and environment around them. Many agreed.

Finally I shared some of the thoughts that other people had contributed to the ‘What is care?’ Campaign.

 

At the end of it all, there were many smaller conversations. We hope to carry things forward in small groups together. To find ways to support each other and create little strategies for changing attitudes and behaviours around us.

We thank Madhuri, Neeta, Mayuresh and Shalini for their support and interest in our work. We thank each parent and every member of the Ankur team for their interest and engagement.’

Go to:-

‘Parents meet at Ankur Vidyamandir, an inclusive school.
Part 1.

Part 2.

(Shikha Aleya)