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How we make our Dandiya inclusive - Chennai NGO Mitr reports for Newz Hook

October 2, 2017

Since 2012, Mitr, an NGO in Chennai, has played a vital role in supporting families of children with special needs. This year, the NGO organized an inclusve Dandiya for the first time. Gopinath Ramakrishnan, a trustee of Mitr, shares his experiences in this special report for Newz Hook.

Mitr is an associated support center for special needs in Chennai. We organize workshops, parent meets, etc. We also run a cafe called Mitr Café on Sunday evenings. This is a social occasion for special needs families, where the children help prepare and serve food. We have fun activities like traditional Indian games, music performances, story-telling, Zumba, etc. We also have special programs for occasions like Diwali, Christmas, New Year's, Children's Day, World Autism Day, etc.

This year we decided to celebrate Navratri with an inclusive Dandiya Nite. It was a wonderful evening with over 50 participants thoroughly enjoying themselves - dancing, playing and munching on tasty snacks.

We encourage everyone to participate in our events. Our programs are not restricted to the special needs community. We often have people from the neighbourhood, as well as friends of our members, dropping by.

We try to make the venue accessible. This means that we have ramps for wheelchair users, helpers for the visually challenged, and so on.

Another thing which is very important for many in our group, is that we ensure the sound and light levels are not so high as to trouble those with sensory issues. We also encourage parents to sensitize children who have noise sensitivity and bring earmuffs or headphones if they like.

Last, but by no means least, we ensure that children can be themselves - there is no censuring, or any teasing about behaviour that can be seen as odd or funny in other circumstances. When the kids realize they are in a safe place, they relax - and then their parents do!

Gopinath Ramakrishnan is also the co-founder of the Special Child Assistance Network (SCAN). He can be reached at email2gopi@gmail.com.

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