Students under our day care programme

NagammalNagammal
was born in 1989 in the nearby village into a family with three older brothers. She was unwanted and her mother had tried to abort her. When she first came to the “Old Playground” she was about 3.5 years old and was not able to walk because of severe undernourishment. She was weak and constantly ill. Over the years she has needed a lot of healthcare for all kinds of diseases including tuberculosis. Since 2003 we were able to offer day care and lunch which helped to stabilize her health. Nagammal was our first child with hearing impairment. At that time, we had no experience with hearing aids and speech therapy. It was a long process until Nagammal finally received her first hearing aids when she was around 5 years old. For the testing and purchasing, we had to go to Chennai which was at that time a 4-5 hour drive on terrible roads. Nagammal is cognitively fine but is very shy. She has profited most from our program over the years. Selvi taught her reading and writing at Deepam, although she is not able to talk properly because she got her hearing aid too late and had no family support. We have taught Nagammal various handicrafts such as embroidery, greeting cards design and candle-making. Meanwhile Nagammal is much more confident and became a great help with the smaller children. At Deepam Nagammal feels safe and well respected. We have an agreement with her parents that Nagammal can stay at Deepam for continuous health-care and as a helper. She has her own saving account where we put a monthly contribution for her future needs.

Sundar
was born in 1985. Having severe learning disabilities, the majority of his skills are limited. Over the years, we have managed to teach him the basic colors and counting up to 20. Sundar is able to do small jobs at Deepam and manages well socially. His concentration span is extremely low and he will never be able to have a normal job. Nevertheless, Sundar is always in a good mood and sings all day long. In the village he is always seen on the road and accepted by everybody for his good nature. Sundar is certainly one of the most happy beings!

Vinoth was born in 1989 with a learning disability and modest hearing loss. He is fast and active but is quite skilled with his hands. We had managed to integrate him gradually into a pottery but it seems the work there was too hard for him and he was neglecting his personal care. He doesn’t fit into our day-care group with the smaller children anymore. We have discussed many times how to proceed with Vinoth until finally we made him a helper at Deepam itself, which seems to have worked out well as long as he gets a minimum of supervision. He keeps our garden clean and participates in some group activities and receives regular meals. Vinoth dreams of having his own cell-phone and motorbike. We have helped him to open a savings account in his name for his future needs and we pay him a monthly contribution from Deepam for his work. Additionally he gets weekly pocket-money to spend how he likes.

Akash was born in 2002. He had epileptic fits immediately after he was born and needs to take continuous medication. Akash has a learning disability and behavioural disorder with autistic features. He comes from a poor family with uneducated parents. His father is addicted to alcohol and does not help much with raising his children and his mother needs to work to sustain the family. We have known Akash since he was about 2 years old when he first came as an outpatient to Angelika for occupational therapy. It was not possible to work with him continuously. Unfortunately, Akash often had severe epileptic attacks and also became very sick with recurrent fevers and it took months to find out that he had a specific type of tuberculosis infection. For nine months he was under strong medical treatment. To ensure that others did not contract tuberculosis, he could not come to Deepam during this period. Meanwhile his mother found it more and more difficult to manage her son. She wanted to admit Akash into a boarding school, but he was refused because of his challenging behaviour. Therefore our team decided to try out taking Akash into our day-care program. This was a real challenge in the beginning as Akash needed one person to constantly watch him. He refused eye contact, was not toilet trained, was beating and provoking other children, disturbing and not participating in activities. Slowly his social behaviour improved and in individual sessions we focused on simple tasks to enable him to cooperate and concentrate. He has since made astonishing progress and is participating in all the activities.

Sarasu
was born with severe hearing impairment in 1998. When Sarasu was 1.5 years old her mother brought her to us because she had noticed that her daughter did not respond to sounds and did not start talking. The audio-metric tests confirmed that she is hearing impaired and we have helped in purchasing her first hearing aids as well as the moulds which needed to be specially shaped according to her ears. These moulds needed to be replaced each time her ears grew bigger. After several months the family situation worsened. Sarasu’s father was drinking more and more and her mother needed to go to work to provide for the family. Meanwhile her younger sister was born. Therefore we decided to try out paying Sarasu’s mother for each day she came with Sarasu to us for speech-therapy. This worked out very well for some time. Sarasu received daily sessions with Selvi and some sessions with a professional speech-therapist from outside. Within a few months Sarasu acquired all the sounds necessary to speak Tamil. At that point, we helped to send her to a special school in Pondicherry with the idea of providing her with a better future. Unfortunately her father then committed suicide and her mother asked us for help to admit Sarasu to a hostel as she did not see a better option at that time. One year later, it became clear that Sarasu was at the hostel even not allowed to wear her hearing aids and that she received no training. We took Sarasu back at her mother’s request. But Sarasu had lost precious time – she could not speak anymore and the training had to be started all over again.  Also she had become quite restless and unfocused. The family’s housing situation was terrible. Together with the old grandparents they were living in a tiny hut. With the help of a kind person from Auroville it became possible to provide a small house for them. Steadily Sarasu was progressing well over time. She got more focused and is able to read  and write Tamil. In Maths she is able to do multiplication. Sarasu became a smart teenager with a strong will. Over a period of two years she was gradually integrated into the Life Education Centre(LEC), where she receives training in handicrafts and tailoring. Sarasu is praised for her skills and is meanwhile able to stitch her own panjabis (pants with a knee-long top). We are confident that she will be able to earn in future her own living.

NishanthNishant
was born in 1999 with Cerebral Palsy (spasticity of the muscles). He lives with his grandmother. When Nishant was 5 years old his grandmother brought him to Deepam three times a week for intensive physiotherapy until he was able to walk short distances, first with the help of calipers, later even without appliances. The spasticity of his leg muscles is severe – therefore his walking does not look very elegant and he needs to continue with specific physiotherapy exercises. Nishant followed mainstream schooling for many years, but as he is a slow learner and often inattentive, he did not pass the exams. Since 2012 Nishant attends the day-care programme at Deepam, by his own wish, where we provide physiotherapy and basic education in individual sessions. Previously, there were many complaints about Nishant’s motivation and progress, however recently Nishant is becoming more confidence and receives a lot of praise and recognition for his efforts. He is more interested in physiotherapy as he wants to look good and wants to walk straight. Nishant is also showing more interest in vocational training, and especially enjoys computer class. “I want to walk straight and be tall. Now my height is 5 feet and 2 inches. My favourite is the computer training at Deepam. In future I would like to run my own shop in the village, selling spare parts and recharge for cell phones.”
We would like to equip Nishant with some skills which enable him to manage his life later on his own.

Nandini
first came to Deepam for physiotherapy in 2004 when she was nine months old. She did not have a smooth start in life; while pregnant with Nandini, her mother attempted suicide by burning herself with kerosene and was hospitalized with 42% burns. Nandini was born prematurely with multiple disabilities (Cerebral Palsy and Microcephaly). Since we have known her, Nandini has been undernourished and suffers from intestinal parasites. Her father has a severe alcohol addiction and does not work anymore. She has two younger brothers who attend regular schools. Due to Nandini’s family problems, her attendance at therapy was very irregular. When Nandini was seven and mature enough to join our day-care programme, she picked up significantly. Having no toilet at home and being delayed in her development, training her to use the toilet on her own was an enormous challenge. In 2016 we were able to help Nanadini’s family to build their own toilet. Nandini loves to be in the group with the other children and is making steady progress. With her shiny eyes and her happy being, she is a ray of sunshine here at Deepam.

Santhiya
first came to us when she was two years old. We remember her as a dirty little girl who always had a running nose and was often sick. She was undernourished, tiny for her age and continuously had different types of intestinal parasites for which she got medical treatment. Santhiya’s parents are blood related. Born in 2003, weighing only 1,900 grams she was kept in an incubator for a week. Although she has made a lot of progress since 2009 when we integrated her in into our day-care group, she is still very underdevloped in her cognitive abilities and motor-skills. She has now learned to identify colours, match shapes and other objects and uses simple language and gestures to express herself. The test results confirmed that her hearing is fine but that she has a “sensory hearing loss”. This means that what she hears is not processed well in her brain and therefore she needs a lot of extra stimulation to learn to speak. Toilet training remained a constant challenge as she was used to defecating outside. Another draw-back for Santhiya is her delicate health – she is still sick often. In 2011 she was diagnosed with Primary Complex (the beginning of TB) and was given a full course of tuberculosis treatment. Her physical health has since improved, but she is still far too small for her age. She is now more concentrated and progress is seen in many areas. Santhiya is liked by everybody for her lovely personality.

Ruthrapathi
-whose parents are related to each other- was born in 2003 with profound bilateral hearing loss. He has one younger sister. His father is living with another woman and does not take care of his children. Ruthrapathi’s mother labours for a daily wage on construction sites to earn a living for the family. Ruthrapathi never went to school and was left on his own during the day. Only when he was eight years old was he was given hearing aids for the first time by us. Ruthrapathi loves his hearing aids and is very proud of them. The process of learning to speak will be difficult as he has received his hearing aids very late. It requires a lot of effort and patience from him and our team member Gopal, who does speech-therapy with him. After some months Ruthrapathi was able to pronounce words and most of the letters of the Tamil alphabet. Ruthrapathi had to be integrated in the group where he had to learn better social behaviour such as learning to wait or take others into consideration. We also had to teach him how to use a toilet. With the food provided at Deepam he has been putting on weight and looks much healthier. Ruthrapathi benefits from the various activities at Deepam. Meanwhile he is able to read and write single words in Tamil. He loves handicrafts and is the one who is most skilled to use our pedal saw to cut beautiful things out of plywood. We’re focusing on early vocational training with the aim to integrate him into the outside world and manage his own life.

Hema
was 4 years old when she was referred to us by her Kindergarden teachers in 2009. We recommended doing an audiometry test which confirmed that she was hearing impaired and that she needed to wear hearing aids and she would require intensive speech therapy. Her parents were informed about a few special schools, which are further away, and provide special education for hearing impaired children. As Hema is quite active and unfocused her parents decided that Hema should join our day-care programme at Deepam where she would get individual attention and would also get daily sessions of speech-therapy with Selvi and Gopal. After two years and considerable progress, we suggested that Hema should trial re-integration in a mainstream school. Aikayam School was ready to accommodate Hema into the first grade. We continued to assist Hema in the afternoons for speech-therapy, her home-work and for the maintenance of her hearing aids. Unfortunately Hema’s parents gave little support for her home-work and after several months the teachers gave up as Hema was not able to follow in class. Now Hema is at Deepam for the full day where she gets a few individual sessions weekly where she learns to read and write Tamil and learn basic maths. Hema profits from the different activities which are offered at Deepam. Meanwhile she has become much more beautiful, content and concentrated. Also she is talking much more and is well articulated, especially as we were donated high quality hearing aids for her. She can read full chapters in Tamil and write complete sentences. In maths she can do simple calculations.

Dharani
was born in 1997 and came first to us for physiotherapy when she was 2 years old. She suffers from epilepsy and is on constant medication. For some years Dharani was in mainstream schools but, as she is developmentally delayed, she was academically behind her peers. When she was twelve she finally joined our day care group and she was barely able to write her own name. In the other school there was no appropriate help for Dharani who requires more individual attention in order to be able to focus and to progress. Over a long period of time Dharani showed strange social behaviours, refused to participate in group activities and withdrew inwardly. Our Deepam team closely monitored and supervised Dharani to better understand how to support her development e.g. she was sent for some art-therapy sessions to support her emotionally.
Dharani’s father died in 2004 of HIV and her mother was left with four adolescents. Dharani has two older sisters and one younger brother. They were living in a one room house made out of mud with a thatched roof which was leaking badly and was temporarily covered with a plastic sheet. In the tropics there are long periods without rain but the monsoon rains are extremely heavy. In 2011 we were able to help Dharani and her family, with funds from Deepam, to create a solid house.
Finally in 2013 Dr. Peter Prashant, the pediatric doctor from PIMS hospital who supports us tremendously, diagnosed Dharani with Sturge-Weber Syndrome which explains her medical condition. It is a congenital disorder (by birth) which is always accompanied by a red birth-mark on the face. Complications are calcifiction of tissue and loss of nerve cells in the brain, on the same side of the head as the birth mark, which often results in seizure disorders and muscle weakness on the side of the body opposite to the birth-mark. Another complication can be glaucoma which can lead to blindness. Therefore we make sure that Dharani’s eyes get checked regularly. Despite all of this Dharani has made incredible progress in recent years. She is ready to work harder to achieve something and participates more actively. We are very proud of her and encourage her a lot.

Chandru
was born in 2007 with Down Syndrome, also called Mongolism or Trisomy 21. Since the age of 1.5 he has been coming to Deepam regularly with his mother to receive physiotherapy and general stimulation. Chandru is delayed in all his milestones and we need to focus on the development of his speech. He is an extremely sweet and smart boy who is liked by everybody for his charm. His mother was still helping him a lot when he grew up and we insisted that he be toilet trained and that he learnt to eat alone and dress on his own. Our aim was to integrate him gradually into our day-care programme which is proving more difficult than we had expected. Chandru’s behaviour is challenging at times as he is naughty adults tend to find this funny as he is kind of cute. We have talked at Deepam several times and made it very clear with his parents that we all need to have a clear and firm approach with Chandru in order to guide him and help him to develop appropriate social behaviour.

Vinoth was born in 2008. He was referred to us in 2012 because he was not talking, he expressed his needs through gestures only. His mother reported that Vinoth could have lost his hearing during a heavy thunder storm when he was 3 years old. This did not sound convincing to us, especially after we found out that his mother took pills to attempt suicide when she was 5 months pregnant with Vinoth. The audiometry report confirmed a profound hearing impairment. Vinoth came regularly for speech therapy for some time. Learning to speak with the help of hearing aids is a long process. In the beginning he was very shy and refused to make eye contact and hardly opened his mouth. We provided him with good hearing aids and over the years Vinoth made a lot of progress attending our day care programme and getting intensive therapy sessions.

In 2019 we advised Vinoth’s parents to send their son to a government school for hearing impaired students. There he is able to follow formal education and receive certificates which we cannot provide, with the aim for him to be able to find future employment and lead an independent life. We were sad to let sweet Vinoth go, as we knew that he received a lot more individual attention, health and social care at Deepam and could learn more life skills with us. However, we believe school is the right path for him. We are in touch with him and his parents to provide support for his hearing aids.

Dineshkarthik  came to us in 2012 as a two year old boy. We referred him for an audiometry test. The result confirmed profound hearing impairment. The next step was to buy good quality hearing aids which Deepam supported financially as it was not affordable for his family. After some months of intensive speech-therapy we recommended a school for hearing impaired children in the town of Pondicherry, with a strict training-programme that aims to integrate students into mainstream schools. Unfortunately this did not work out for Dinesh as he was unable to sit quietly. Two years later his parents, who are eager to provide their son with good options, brought him back to Deepam only after no other school would take him. Though Dinesh is a very smart and sweet boy who made a lot of progress, he is a challenge for our group as he is constantly fidgeting and sometimes deliberately disturbs and hurts other children. He likes to help the smaller ones, but is a bit rough in his manners. We engage Dinesh in physical tasks, such as little garden jobs and we take him to the swimming pool and for therapeutic horse riding. Basic education is offered in one-to-one classes and he is able to read and write basic Tamil (the local language here) and is able to do simple addition and subtraction. With individual sessions of speech-therapy his talking has also improved. His  favourite  activities are complex puzzles.

Sarvajith   was born to blood-related parents and is small and skinny, making him look much younger than his age. He was born in 2010 with cerebral palsy and ataxia (a neurological disorder impacting his muscle control), all movements are very slow and require a huge effort, including eating and speaking. That, combined with him being given a diet primarily of white rice and sweets at home, he is still severely undernourished and has bad tooth decay. It took a lot of patience and stamina to encourage him to eat healthy food at Deepam. He took a while to integrate into the day care group as he refused to leave his mother, however, despite facing many barriers in his young life, Sarvajith has exceptionally strong willpower and works hard. Daily physiotherapy and speech therapy are showing positive results. He loves to tell funny stories and every morning he brings flowers for the morning circle prayer from his home. It’s a joy to have him at Deepam with us.