March 21, 2008
World Down Syndrome Day
Like most parents, Bangaloreans Esther and Robin Thomas had numerous dreams for their daughter. And when they learnt that
Divya, their daughter was a victim of Downs Syndrome, they knew life was not the same anymore. Initially, there was a little disappointment. But this did not deter the dreams they had for her, instead taking the situation as a challenge the couple went on to start Bangalore's first school exclusively for those with Down's Syndrome.
Named after their daughter, Divya's Downs Development Trust (DDDT) had its humble beginning in 2003 with four students with Down's syndrome. The journey has not been easy. Esther had to give up her comfortable career and undergo training in special education and other courses to do with disability. Esther and the other trustees had to face all odds. But it all paid off. DDDT today caters to the needs of as many as 18 children ranging from the age group of 3 to 22.
It was John Langdon Down who first introduced the world to the clinical description of Downs Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder with an incidence of one in every 800 births. This abnormality causes mild mental and physical retardation. This condition is irreversible and cannot be rectified but with proper intervention, individuals are able to attain a certain level of normalcy and become self-sufficient.
Sadly in most cases, the diagnosis is delayed and children with Downs Syndrome are sent to special schools where they are put into mix groups with multi-category disabled children. This sometimes causes regression in behaviour patterns, social skills and learning.
DDDT has a team of committed full-time and part-time special educators, physiotherapists, speech therapists and psychologists to cater to the needs of these children and follows the methodology prescribed by the National Institute of Mental Health, Secunderabad.
"Students once enrolled are assessed by the team and an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is chalked out to suit his/her needs and abilities," explained Ester to Daijiworld.
"Children below the age of 3 are engaged in early intervention programme through way of infant stimulation. The students' progress is monitored from time to time. Training is carried out in the areas of motor, self care, social, cognitive and vocational skills. Special emphasis is given to development of speech, language and communication along with behaviour modification."
At DDDT, students are taught various vocational skills such as candle making, phenyl making, stitching and so on. The trust regularly puts up stalls that sell things made by students such as paper bags, candles, table cloths, vases, phenyl and purses. Thanks to the skills developed here and support from parents, 23-year-old Pallav who was once a student here runs a provision store today.
Some of the other services provided are dental care, sports and computer training. Not only are the children given training in a class room set-up but are also encouraged to interact with children from other special schools. Students of DDDT have actively participated in various sports events and competitions.
The school operates out of a house in Viveknagar, Bangalore and a visit proves that each child is given the special love and attention it needs. One such memorable visit, I found that there is no dearth to how much affection these children show to even strangers. From holding hands to inviting smiles, the world of the Downs is based on love and acceptance.
For Esther and her team each day brings forth new challenges. With funds running short, they are forced to limit themselves in every activity yet not deprive the children of anything. Though there are a few volunteers and philanthropists who have extended help on and off, there is still a long way to go.
Down Syndrome International (DSI) has officially earmarked 21 March as World Down Syndrome Day. The date was chosen to signify the uniqueness of Down syndrome in the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome and is used synonymously with Down syndrome.
This year the theme for 21 March 2008 is "Aim High Enough", to continue creating awareness about Down syndrome and promote acceptance of diversity.
As the world dedicates March 21 to observe World Down Syndrome day Daijiworld takes up this small initiative in acknowledging the good work done by Divya's Down's Development Trust in reaching out to so many children and making them self-sufficient individuals.
Those who wish to extend support to DDDT may contact the trustees at
No 232, 4th main, Viveknagar, Bangalore 560047.
Tel : 91 80 65648745
Mobile : 9845540303
E mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
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