Latika Roy Foundation offers support to cerebral palsy patients from birth to adulthood
The story of Latika Roy Foundation is an intensely personal one. The idea of focusing attention on children and adults with special needs was sparked off when founders Ravi and Jo McGowan Chopra’s adopted daughter Moy Moy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
There was no school in Dehradun at the time for children with special needs and the Chopras decided to start one. Now, decades later, the school has reached out to hundreds of children around India, and is a presence in their lives right from birth until adulthood.
“It was first a children’s centre, a place where kids could come after school”, recalls Jo. “When Moy Moy’s difficulties grew worse, we decided to start a special school. As years went on, we started getting kids with Down Syndrome, autism and other developmental problems. But even today, 50% of our kids have CP.”
The foundation works with kids from birth right up to adulthood. It runs a diagnostic centre at the local government hospital where tests are done for free. The centre has a multi-disciplinary team with a doctor, a social worker, and a psychologist. “The idea is to look at the child’s situation in totality and see what the needs are”, says Jo.
The foundation also runs an early intervention centre where parents are trained to help children with disabilities from birth up to the age of five years to achieve their fullest potential at home. There is also an outreach team that works in schools so children can adapt to a mainstream environment.
For kids who need specialized care, there is a separate school where the academic program is run at a pace more suited to their needs. Older kids with behavioural problems as well as intellectual disabilities can go to a child development centre where their parents are trained as well.
The foundation’s approach is truly holistic. There is a vocational training centre where adolescents learn job skills. “We find out what they like, skill them in that direction and help them find jobs.”
The biggest challenge, says Jo, is not the lack of money but attitudes, and this is where the foundation’s focus on advocacy comes in.
“There is this pity and tag of noble work which are undermining. People think they are being helpful but for inclusion, attitudes must change and this is born of fear and ignorance.”
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