A child is able to reach for a red ball. A baby turns her head toward the light for the first time in an attempt to see it. A mother and child make eye contact for the first time.
These seemingly small moments amount to great achievements at a new early intervention centre at Perkins India’s partner, Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital’s Vrindavan Centre. The centre was initiated by Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital (SCEH) to address the needs of children who have multiple disabilities and visual impairments (MDVI) as part of Project IDI (Identification and Intervention), an initiative to identify children with MDVI throughout India and ensure that they have access to early intervention services to prepare them for school.
The new early intervention centre offers a holistic approach towards addressing the needs of children with vision impairment. Enrolled families have access to medical professionals, rehabilitation workers and early intervention specialists who can support the overall development of the child. The caring staff provide a sense of comfort and relief to parents, according to Madhumati Bose, the Senior Intervention Specialist at SCEH. “The parents now feel that they have someone who understands their child and can guide them.” She notes that parents are often worried and protective about the future of their children who have a vision impairment and want to know how they can best support their growth and development.
The centre offers a ray of hope by providing support and developing skills in children to lead daily activities as independently as possible, focusing on the early stages of a child’s development. Rehabilitation workers use fun activities that explore tactile materials like rice or shaving cream that act as a form of sensory stimulation. Such stimulation is especially important for infants and young children between birth and three to four years. They also guide parents to be involved in these activities and continue them at home whenever possible.
The early intervention centre at Vrindavan is a critical component in the Project IDI model that Perkins India and Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital are piloting together. Perkins India and SCEH are working hand in hand to train Community-based Rehabilitation (CBR) workers and ASHA and Anganwadi workers who will be coordinating with the early intervention staff at the Vrindavan centre.
Bose considers grassroots and Anganwadi workers to be “a blessing in disguise” when it comes to children with MDVI in rural communities. The addition of the CBR workers is expected to further the sustainability of the centre and reach even more families, particularly those in rural communities who have limited access to medical or rehabilitation services.
As a partner of SCEH, Perkins India brings technical expertise, infusing strategies and techniques honed over decades of Perkins’ experience around the globe. Bose notes that this partnership is helping their institution to stay abreast with the latest technologies and interventions, and also recognizes the need for such work and initiatives taking place in settings like India.
Supriya Das, the Perkins India Project Coordinator overseeing the partnership with SCEH, shares Bose’s dedication towards children with disabilities and enthusiasm for the potential impact of Project IDI on children and families. “It is only through the intersection of the health and education sectors that children with vision impairment and multiple disabilities will gain opportunities to reach their full potential.”