Sol's Arc is making the world a better place for children with disabilities
Children with disabilities have diverse educational needs, one that mainstream schools and teachers are often unable to meet. Something Sonali Saini became aware of during her years as a special educator.
This moved her to start Sol's Arc in 2003, a centre that aims to address the specific needs of children with disabilities starting from three years and above.
"I found there was little awareness about the needs of this population", says Saini. "The curriculum for these children is very basic and minimal and this means their education levels are rather low. The expectations from them are low too when some of them are very capable".
This led Saini to start looking at ways to integrate children with disabilities in the mainstream. Their therapy centre in Mumbai focuses on creating customized programs to meet every child's needs. They work directly with 60-100 kids and adults at any point of time.
For Seema Dhir, parent to Sanskaar, a 20-year-old with autism, the therapy centre run by Sol's Arc offers a safe space that allows her child to explore his fullest potential in a loving environment.
"Sol's Arc is a place made on earth for parents of children with special needs. It offers s safe environment where we can leave our kids without worrying about physical harm. The staff is also very loving and patient which is important because children with autism have behavioral issues. Some of them may bite or hit and it is important that the staff are understanding".
The other critical role Sol's Arc plays is through its Parallel School Program, which aims to meet a critical gap by building an inclusive education program to ensure that no child is left behind.
We have partnerships with organizations like Teach for India where we train their staff from an inclusion perspective. The aim is to make primary education inclusive and improve learning outcomes, something that the Right to Education Act and RPWD 2016 Act have not been to change as the systems are not geared for this. Teachers are not capacitated to do this. Our focus is on working with teachers and different organizations in mainstreaming set ups. - Sonali Saini, Founder, Sol's Arc
One of the organizations Sol's Arc has partnered with is Little Hearts Centre, a school for children with disabilities founded by two mothers in Mumbai.
Reshmy Nikith, Co-founder of Little Hearts Centre says the curriculum designed by Saini is systematic and relevant.
Saini's curriculum is relevant because it is aligned with the syllabus followed by mainstream school boards and simplified and customised for children with disabilities. "It is designed such that it can be followed by a child without a disability as well as one with a disability", says Nikhit. "It gives teachers the option to modify the assessment worksheets and reduce the questions depending on the child's ability".
The syllabus designed is especially valuable for subjects like English, which is harder to break down into concepts, Vishal Db Program Coordinator with Educo which runs the Saibaba Path Mumbai Public School in Mumbai.
"The curriculum designed by Sol's Arc breaks subjects down into competencies and this has been done for the National Curriculum Framework (NCF). It is very systematized which makes it easier for teachers. Their program gives us a list of things we need to complete and maps out how each content has to be taught . There is a test at the end of every module which tells us whether the goals have been achieved."
All of this is done in a child friendly fashion with thought given to the small details like the size of digits and flow of topics. It's this personal touch that makes Sol's Arc such a winner for everyone.
"Even at their centre, the teachers are always available and responsive", says Dhir. "My husband is in the merchant navy and travels a lot. His frequent ins and outs can be a little hard for my son to accept. These are the kind of issues teachers helps is with. There is transparency in everything they do".
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