These parents have tapped onto their kids’ creative side and encouraged them to make handcrafted products which were then sold at an exhibition held in the city recently. Children with mental retardation and autism made colourful bags, coasters, key chains, folders and bowls among other items. All the kids were trained in vocational skills.
Shyamala Naganathan, parent and founder of Shri Sakthy Ganapaty Trust that supports adults with special needs, said, “We are a group of parents whose children are mentally challenged. We were looking at ways for them to become financially independent after they turn 21.”
“That will be a crucial time for them because they will be done with their stint in special schools by then. All these kids have been trained in vocational skills by trainers from Vidya Sagar who too have neurological disabilities,” Naganathan said.
Speaking about the trainers, she added, “They know how to make paper cups, thamboolam bags and screen prints on sarees, etc. There are more than 15 of them now in Srinivasan Gandhi Nilayam in Alwarpet and in another space on Nathamuni Street. We want to support more such people through our initiatives,” she added.
Vidya Sagar that has been offering support through training in vocational skills after analysing the pupils’ strengths and weakness. Vijayashree Ramesh, the coordinator of employment education centre in Vidya Sagar, said, “They want to earn their own money; just like any of us. So, we gauge their capacity of learning and train them accordingly, irrespective of the age.”
Here, Shyamala pointed out that keeping the adults occupied helps them cope with adversities better. “We had a couple of them leaving the trust after their fathers moved to different cities but their mothers informed us that they are restless because they are idle. One need to patient while teaching them. Once they learn it, they are extremely good at it,” she said, citing the example of her daughter, a 46-year-old who is into making cups.
This, however, has not stopped them from taking advantage of an upcoming business opportunity. “Since Navarathri is just around the corner, we are working on getting orders for wire bags, tea coasters and gift envelopes,” she added.