Tele-therapy helps disabled kids in remote Himachal Pradesh access support during lockdown
The lockdown has put therapy sessions and other interventions for children with disabilities on hold. The challenges are even more for families in remote, rural areas. Read how one organisation is overcoming this through tele-therapy.
With its harsh terrain and extreme cold conditions, Himachal Pradesh poses many challenges when it comes to providing therapies and other essential services/interventions to the disabled community. With the Covid-19 lockdown, those challenges have only grown.
To ensure children with disabilities don’t miss out, the Aash Children Development Centre has turned to tele-therapy. Launched in April 2019 by the Samphia Foundation, the centre supports children with disabilities ranging from orthopaedic, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, hearing impairments, developmental delays, and sensory processing disorders.
Mix of live and recorded sessions
“We started off by doing WhatsApp call to parents to guide them about the various home interventions they can do with their children”, explain Rekha Thakur, Co-Founder/Physiotherapist, Aash Children Development Centre. This varied according to the students’ needs. “Some parents are given home programme plans which they implement and get back to us for guidance. For others we are doing live exercise sessions where the therapist observes how the parent positions the child and gives live feedback”.
The tele-therapy sessions started as soon as lockdown was declared. There are independent sessions held as well for some children. “The child holds the phone with his/her hands and follows the special educator’s instructions to do oral motor exercises”, adds Rekha.
For children with autism, the tele-therapy model is remarkably effective. “This is because they prefer to interact with objects such as phones”, says Rekha.
Given the success, the centre plans to use tele-therapy as a regular mode of intervention, at least with some children. This will help support more families and help overcome adverse weather conditions and infrastructure-related barriers in the mountains.
Our children and parents are a continuous source of inspiration for us as they have always been resilient in the face of isolation and physical distancing which the world faces today. It’s been a forced lifestyle for many of them. Here’s hoping that we take forward some of the learnings, so we develop approaches in society that are rooted in accessibility and inclusion well beyond this pandemic. – Shruti More, Co-Founder, Samphia Foundation
Mental health helpline for larger community
To help make the Covid-19 pandemic response inclusive, the centre has also put together a message with the help of parents. The message says – “Our fragile immune system can’t handle Covid-19. Please think of us and just stay home!”.
“The children and parents made placards with messages for the rest of India”, says Dhaneshwari Thakur, a social worker. “The compromised Immune system of our children puts them at greater risk of catching the virus. Children with disabilities all the more are at a higher risk”.
A mental health helpline has also been launched for Kullu. “The aim is to reach out to anyone who is worried about their mental wellbeing and health in the times of coronavirus”, says Bejju, Programme Manager. “The helpline is managed by our in-house psychologist and therapist and made available in Kullvi which is the local dialect”. The response to this has been positive and many people are calling in as helpline addresses issues beyond disability. “In a situation like this we feel is it is our civil and moral responsibility to support the community”, adds Bejju.
For Vandana Sharma, mother to a four-year-old with cerebral palsy, the tele-therapy sessions are a lifesaver. “The therapists are very caring and make sure that Neha is positioned properly in her chair as she goes about the therapies. I feel secure that she is safe and independent while I do my work”.
Sapna Thakur says the online therapy sessions initially made her daughter Anaya, who has autism, anxious. “She was anxious when we stopped taking her to the centre. Now that’s no longer the case because she gets to see the familiar faces of her teachers and feels relaxed. She looks forward to the calls. Every time the phone rings, she feels excited that her Ma’am is here”.
The Covid-19 lockdown has turned the world as we know it, upside down. Thanks to some creative thinking, Aash Child Development Centre is making sure that these children find some sense of security in these turbulent times.
Watch in Sign Language
- Aash Children Development Centre aims to reach out to children with disabilities in remote Himachal Pradesh
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