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Kerala High Court upholds guidelines for therapy centres in the state

Our #StoryOfTheWeek is on a group of parents who have finally won a case at the Kerala High Court after a long hard fight. This now means that all autism therapy centres across the state will be governed by a set of guidelines.

For Preetha Anoop Menon this is a moment of victory she will remember for a long time. A few years ago her son, who has autism, broke his hand while undergoing therapy at a centre in Kochi due to alleged ignorance and carelessness. Like any other parent, Preetha expected some action and when none was forthcoming she, along with some other parents with similar horror stories filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Kerala High Court.

Their demand, to introduce guidelines to monitor therapy centres for a fair, legitimate one. Yet it took a long wait before the court finally ruled in their favour. The guidelines are all set to be implemented from January 2020.

Preetha's experience was not a unique one. With therapy centres going unmonitored, children and parents are getting sidelined which is dangerous. Which makes the introduction of guidelines become crucial. Reportedly, the guidelines will be from under section 49, 50 and 51 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The court said the centres must be brought under a regulatory mechanism.

Padma Pillai is one of the co-founders of TogetherWeCan, a parent support group that has been instrumental in bringing the case to the court. She hopes this will lead to similar mechanisms across India.

This is indeed a huge movement for the autism community in Kerala. We all came together and proved that together we can. Now, there is a bigger and better structure that will be followed. Since the government has also acknowledged our PIL we hope we can expand this to other states also because problems faced by children with autism and their parents are the same everywhere. We want to take this movement forward.- Padma Pillai, Co-founder, TogetherWeCan.

Under the present scenario, most centres are not accredited by the government. Apart from charging exorbitant amounts, they do not have strict protocols or transparency. Parents are not given a detailed idea of what therapy their child undergoes. Since there is no mechanism to monitor what happens inside these centres, incidents of child abuse are common.

"We had filed this petition four years back and we are finally getting justice. Now, it has to become effective and guidelines must be strictly followed. With these new guidelines, parents can also be part of the therapies of their child and clearly know what is being done", says Anitha Pradeep, one of the parents who had filed the petition.

The new guidelines highlight the importance of government officials monitoring the centres, introduction of right equipment for therapies, proper documentation, and reasonable prices to name a few. Speech and occupational therapies, rehabilitation and clinical psychology centres are all going to be looked at as well.

"We all feel totally empowered and convinced that together we can. Our next steps are to spread the message of guidelines as much as possible to parents and make them aware of their rights", says Seema Lal, Co-founder of TogetherWeCan.

Seema also hopes that parents will be proactive in reporting violations. "We also want to look for partners across the country in each state so that this can be introduced everywhere. The same process must be initiated for inclusive education schools as well", she adds.

ALSO READ: Kerala wheelchair users hopeful of getting their rights after meet with ministers



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