Dancer, swimmer, yoga teacher - Babli challenges every notion about Down syndrome

Find out how Babli has defied the odds in every way in today's story in the series on Down syndrome.

When Babli was born with Down syndrome, her parents were told that she had no future.

A diagnosis, mother Dr Surekha Ramachandran simply refused to accept. She decided to challenge that notion, not just in her case. She made it a mission to create a better world for Babli, and for other families who have children with Down syndrome.

It was an uphill task, given the mountain of myths regarding Down syndrome and the lack of proper information that is needed to cope with its complexities.

From therapy to education, everything was a struggle.

Mainstream schooling was a challenge

Babli had 1% vision, which made education in a mainstream school a challenge. Her mother put her in a regular school, as she wanted her to socialize. However, the lack of even basic support like a seat on the front bench led her to home school Babli.

We got a teacher home, whom the family trained. She was instructed to use sandpaper and large red pens to teach. By using her fingertips, Babli was able to learn. There were chart papers put all over the floor so that she could scribble and do what she wanted – Dr Surekha Ramachandran, President, Down Syndrome Federation of India (DSFI)

This unconventional approach to learning perhaps helps explain Babli many interests. Today, at the age of 37 years, she has a list of achievements that is truly incredible.

Dancer, swimmer, yoga teacher, painter

Babli is a trained Bharatanatyam dancer. Her arangetram, or debut performance, was with trained dancers from the prestigious dance academy, Kalakshetra, at the age of 23.

She is also a trained yoga teacher, and takes classes everyday at the Mathru Mandir, a centre in Chennai set up by her mother. The center provides rehabilitation, support, and therapy for people with Down syndrome.

I like the energy that comes with yoga. It makes me think – Babli Ramachandran. Dance, swimmer, yoga teacher

Dr Ramachandran calls Babli, her guru.

I have done nothing for her. We did not have anyone counselling us. I was faced with a problem, and she was the solution. I was able to write down all the things that were difficult for her and create a solution for the next generation. She was always there to tell me, “Mom be patient. This doesn’t happen overnight. Children like me take time.’ – Dr Surekha Ramachandran, Babli’s mother & Chairperson, DSFI

Babli has won medals at national para swimming championships. She also loves to paint. Everyday, one member of the joint family that she is a part of is treated to a picture. It is this family support that her mother believes is mainly responsible for her strong social skills.

We live in a large joint family, where everyone thinks she is the best thing God created. She never felt different – Dr Surekha Ramachandran, Babli’s mother & Chairperson, DSFI

Her advice to parents’ who have children with Down syndrome is to not let the differences become more important than the child.

Make them confident and be confident yourself. Remember that it is a child first. If a parent is empowered and confident, everyone will look at the child differently - Dr Surekha Ramachandran, Babli’s mother & Chairperson, DSFI

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