Due to the marginalisation of adults with intellectual disability, very little effort is made to equip them with productive skills. Three decades ago we took it upon ourselves to discover their strengths and make them a part of the productive work force.
The outcome is our adult training centre, addressing the life cycle needs of individuals with intellectual disability. Here we help build life skills as well as vocational skills, instilling in them a sense of self-worth and dignity.
While vocational skills focus on training for employment, life skills include knowledge of a wide range of concepts and skills which are essential for adult living. Our work associates are at the core of what we do. All our programmes fulfil their needs and aspirations, helping them lead a productive and dignified life. It is amazing to see our students clearly express their feelings through various activities, once they have spent time at the training centre.
Since, we understand that persons with intellectual disabilities are good at concrete thinking but have limitations in abstract thinking and academic learning, we have identified – through trial and error, experimentation and discussion – a range of vocations that our students can excel in. We follow a stringent training process from assessment to continuous systemic reviews.
When a new entrant reaches Muskaan, we evaluate his or her abilities and potential for training. They are then assigned to different training courses, depending on the ability, like Stationery, Decorated Candles and Diyas, Papier-mâché, Painting, Pottery/ Art &Craft products, Jewellery Making, Weaving, Baking, Food Preservation, Squashes and Masalas used in Indian cooking.
Structure & Process of training
We follow a comprehensive approach to training where family’s inputs play an important role in designing the individual training program as illustrated below:
It is gratifying to see vocations perfected by Muskaan, over 26 years, adopted by other institutions. These vocations are easy to replicate because they are based on concrete mental operations with minimal abstraction and judgment capacity. Once the whole task is divided in sub units and put in an order – simple to complex – our students learn better. When the entire series of operations are defined and put in a predictable order, teaching and learning skills becomes easy. Major vocational activities at Muskaan’s Work Centre include:
- Block printing.
- Gift stationery items./ Paper Bag making
- Decorated candles and diyas.
- Papier-mâché, painting, pottery/ Art & craft products,
- Jewellery making
- Snacks like delicious mathis & namkparas.
- Baking cakes and cookies.
- Pickles and squashes.
- Spices preparation & packing
- Solar drying of herbs and vegetables
- Processing Flowers
- Training is for Hospitality sector, Retail selling and Data Entry
After familiarizing our trainees with various units, we focus on developing prevocational skills, which facilitates vocational learning by enabling them to follow discipline and group norms. The advantage of exposing them to all vocational activities is that they understand their interests and aptitudes, providing a sense of self identity and self-direction. Ultimately it helps them understand the demands of social and work environment. By applying vocational learning they also strengthen their fine and gross motor skills and work demands. Not all entrants move from a structured vocational training to an employment centre. Adults who need higher interventions from the staff continue to create value in an activity centre, where the environment is more relaxed and not target-oriented.
We understand that there is life beyond vocational training and we strive to strengthen all aspects of our trainees’ life, make him self sufficient, confident and independent. Life skills include a wide range of knowledge and skills which are essential for adult living.
Our trainees are encouraged to differentiate or explain why they may feel angry, sad, anxious or scared. Sometimes they deal with it through withdrawal or disruptive behavior. In all cases, it prevents them from understanding social situations and may serve as a barrier to gaining the exposure to the relationships or the social interactions that they may actually crave. The five major life skill areas that are addressed are personal adequacy, social-emotional competence, strengthening cognitive/communication functions, creative self-expression and physical fitness. Muskaan has developed a detailed program to address these aspects based on real time observations.
We equip our associates to look after themselves and perform daily chores – personal care, health and hygiene. We make them aware about the self, family, work place, social and physical environment.
We go over all the life stages, with them, in a way that is comprehensible to them. So, they have an understanding of what it means to be a child, growing up into an adult through teenage hood; different behaviour being appropriate for different age groups; more independence and self-reliance for adults; greater responsibilities as adults; being a support for the family and therefore how it translates into meaningful actions.
Understanding and dealing with one’s emotions and everyday social situations is vital for their adaptation, emotional health and socffial acceptability. Recognition of one’s feelings and emotions and in others, enables them to respond to situations appropriately and feel sense of control over the life situations. Appropriate expression of sexuality is an important aspect of emotional well-being.
Strengthening cognitive functions e.g. attention, perception, memory, reasoning, conceptual learning etc. enables them to become better learners. People with intellectual disabilities develop communication skills later than their typical peers, which in itself impedes successful social interactions. However, their capacity for understanding exceeds their articulation (through language or gestures). When cognitive abilities are strengthened communication skills also bolstered.
People with a severe or moderate intellectual disability have very limited opportunities to communicate or share essential aspects of themselves and their identity as complete human beings i.e. their thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotions, with others. The sense of self is, therefore, at a risk of being lost.
At Muskaan, participation in Art, Craft, Dance, Music, Theatre etc. are a part of everyday routine so that people with intellectual disability find ways to express themselves. Participation in these mediums can motivate a person with intellectual disability to experience a sense of well-being. Creative mediums are also an effective way to stimulate and focus a person’s attention. It might be significantly helpful for some people who may not respond to other types of interventions.