Slice of Life: ‘Teaching special children is rewarding’

Every person has a story to share. This weekly column puts the spotlight on the people of Chennai faces we see but rarely interact with — giving a glimpse into their struggle, hopes and dreams
Slice of Life: ‘Teaching special children is rewarding’
Natraj S, a swimming coach who trains kids with special needs

Chennai

I’ve always loved swimming and I started teaching it as a part-time job so it could serve as an additional source of income. It was enjoyable and easy because I was teaching kids. However, one day, a young parent wanted me to teach a child with autism. Although I wasn’t sure, I gave it a shot. But soon, I realised I wasn’t well informed or trained to teach special children.
I was determined to learn and I began researching about autism. I learnt that swimming could be helpful for kids with dyslexia, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I also came across a trainer who helped coaches train such children in Ahmedabad. My stint there was an eye-opener. Every student is different and they have their strengths and limitations. As teachers, we have to understand them and hone their skills. My guru Vimal Raj helped me understand all of these nuances of training.
Kids with autism are not able to communicate and I have to understand their challenges through their body movements. Based on their limitations, I learned to design techniques. However, patience is the key to deal with these children.
Kids with these conditions often get into trouble in school for disturbing the class unintentionally or for being restless. When they swim in the morning, a lot of their energy is channelised and they are much calmer when they are in school. A lot of personal attention needs to be given to them. 
Parents often worry about their child’s safety because most of these kids do not socialise. I have to assure them that I’ll be by their side all the time. Having said that, seeing them learn is extremely satisfying and emotionally rewarding. It is this sense of satisfaction that motivated me to quit my IT job and teach swimming full-time. I conduct classes for regular kids too but most of my schedule is booked for kids with special needs. 
As told to Vipasha Sinha

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