When our work associate Sumita Bhatnagar (45 yrs) lost her father, who she was very attached to, we were very concerned as she had displayed extreme vulnerability to emotional disturbances, in the past. But to our surprise, she handled her emotions in a mature manner and was composed throughout the last rites of her father.
At home and at her work place – the diya decorating and packaging unit of Muskaan – she was calm. At home, she helped her brother put things together. When she joined back she told her unit head – “Ma’am you said death is inevitable and it happens to everyone, so I have to keep patience. I am helping my brother at home and we are trying to organise things because our mom is old and very sad.”
She even inquired about her dues in Muskaan and wrote in her diary so that she can follow it on her own. All of us face life-changing situations. For people with intellectual disability, certain life changing situations like parents becoming old, changing family patterns and younger generation taking over the decision making process, sibling rivalry, siblings getting married or moving out make it difficult to understand the changed dynamics of the family and are difficult to process. They need to be aware about all these and develop adaptability to new situations.
Here wellness of the body and mind play an important role. Experience of working with intellectually challenged children and adults has shown us the healing and therapeutic value of art, music and dance etc. in their lives. The sensory and motor skills are strengthened by engaging our work associates in sports, yoga, aerobics, and weight management.
In this digital age, exposure to technology is a must. Following our policy of constantly reviewing the curriculum we incorporated computer training to enhance the capabilities of our trainees and work associates.
Lack of activity is often a part of their life. This programme aims at all-round development and motivation through Yoga, gym exercises, sports and specialised therapies. The students participate in various games organised by Special Olympics at state and national level events and have brought laurels too. Basket Ball, Cricket, Skating, Bocce, Badminton are some of their favourite games. Overall motor and sensory integration is strengthened by actively engaging the trainees in sports, yoga, aerobics, and weight management.
Physical fitness is also a character building and social activity. Along with outdoor games and sports, a facility has been created for indoor games which provides opportunities for our students with high support needs to channelise their energy as well as learn many skills while having fun. We also have a physiotherapy unit for strengthening or maintaining muscular functions of students as per individual needs.
Started in 2008 with the support of Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and since last year supported by Magneti Marelli India Pvt Ltd., this unit began as an experiment to address the needs of the students who have moderate to severe intellectual disability and more challenging learning difficulties. They constitute approximately 50% of the intellectually disabled population in India.
Art is a powerful medium of self-expression and it becomes even more important for those who have limited means of expressing themselves. Expressive Art Therapy is a well-recognised and upcoming field. It has special relevance for people with special needs as their psychological and emotional needs often go unrecognised. It has grown as a part of our curriculum in terms of simple vocational training as well as a therapeutic tool for adults with emotional and behavioural problems. It is an opportunity for our work associates to choose art & craft activities as a hobby.
Muskaan students make a variety of lifestyle products which are an outlet for creative talent as well as productive activity. Products include – decorative diyas, beautiful candles, gift stationary, table-mats, coasters and papier mache bowls At Muskaan, we try our best to minimise wastage by converting it into usable products. Recently we started making table mats from wasted strips of stationary paper, an addition to our product line.
Muskaan has been imparting computer training since 2003. We started with a blank slate but today we have a well-developed programme in which computers are used for educational, recreational and vocational purposes. The programme caters to different needs. Activities are done on MS Paint, MS Excel, MS Word, fun games, Photo Shop etc. Some special software are also installed for building cognitive and communication skills in our work associates. Every trainee of Muskaan, irrespective of level of ability, uses different computer programmes according to their learning needs. A batch of 20 work associates is under training for Data Entry, which is expected to lead to employment.