This story appears in the Spring 2020 issue of In Focus.
A year ago, Aditya, then 11 years old with visual and orthopedic impairments, was living at home in Lucknow, India, and not attending school.
His family wanted to help him. But Aditya couldn’t communicate his own needs and his parents didn’t know what his needs were. That disconnect left Aditya’s future shrouded in uncertainty.
“We couldn’t understand what he was feeling,” says his father, Vimlesh. “Our interactions with him were minimal.”
Then came the knock on the door.
Members of Perkins India — an initiative of Perkins International — met Aditya during a home visit. They provided an expert assessment of his abilities and referred his family to appropriate resources for a diagnosis and government support. With those in hand, they helped get him enrolled in a nearby school led by highly skilled, Perkins-trained special educators.
A year later, Aditya can communicate his needs to his family. He can read and write and is learning more every day. He has built a social life with peers, and displays a newfound confidence in those relationships. His family no longer feels hopeless — they believe Aditya has a future.
And while this is just one story, it illustrates why Perkins needs your help on our mission to serve children in India.
In the country with the second-highest population, there are an estimated 1 million children with visual impairment and additional disabilities. The majority of them live in extreme poverty and don’t attend school. Their families would do anything to help them, but they don’t know how. Frequently, medical professionals lack answers as well, and the shortage of trained special educators leaves most schools ill-equipped to welcome these children into the classroom.
“Families just don’t know what they can do to support their children, or who they can approach for support,” says Sampada Shevde, Country Head of Perkins India. “That’s where we come in.”
Perkins India approaches the problem by meeting families where they live, literally: The team partners with local organizations in the state of Uttar Pradesh to conduct home visits and identify children with visual impairment and additional disabilities who are currently unknown to school systems, medical professionals and government agencies.
Once identified, the team assesses the child to get a clear sense of their abilities and connect the family to governmental resources and other medical necessities.
From there, they work with the family to enroll the child in a school with educators capable of creating effective individualized lesson plans.
All the while, the team is training educators, ensuring they have the skills necessary to welcome more children into the classroom and are able to satisfy every student’s unique needs.
“Our work revolves around the children,” adds Shevde. “But in connecting the families to financial, medical, nutritional and accessibility supports, it’s the whole family whose standard of living improves.”
The initial goal is to identify the children who need support and are currently invisible to the educational and government structures in Uttar Pradesh and then refer them to appropriate services and educational opportunities. In areas where services don’t exist, Perkins aims to establish programs that can support children with multiple disabilities and their families close to their homes. With the identification and intervention model proven, we’ll expand our reach around the country. The end goal is to create a sustainable, nationwide method of ensuring every child with visual impairment and multiple disabilities has a seat in the classroom and is included in their community.
Your support enables Perkins to put our strengths to work in a country where they are critically needed. Your support enabled us to lift Aditya out of isolation. And it’s what will enable us to do the same for the million others just like him.