21 November 2011
Like any other teenager, 19–year–old K Anandakrishnan is excited about receiving his first salary. Compounding his happiness is the joy that his parents feel seeing their son on his way to becoming financially independent.
“Anandakrishnan was diagnosed with mental retardation when he was five and we were always worried about what occupation he would be able to take up,” says Anandakrishnan’s father R R Jayaprakash.
Anandakrishnan is one of four students at The Spastic Society of Tamil Nadu (SPASTN) who have been working at a city restaurant for the last one month washing and cutting vegetables. Through a new programme called ‘Project Able @ World of Work’ at SPASTN, he was trained to find a job in the hospitality industry. “Right now, there is a huge vacuum as far as the employment of students from our vocational training centre is concerned as they don’t match up to industry standards,” says L V Jayashree, director of SPASTN.
Anandakrishnan, who used to make paper bags and cups at the institute’s vocational training centre, received in–house kitchen training for five weeks before he was placed. “As of now, we have 15 more students with mild to moderate levels of mental retardation or cerebral palsy who can be trained in simple skills such as folding towels, washing and cutting vegetables or making the bed,” says Jayashree. The school has already acquired professional cleaning trolleys and sprays to train students in basic skills. The director says that she is also looking to create a dummy hotel room in the school where students can learn.
The curriculum material that the school has created includes step–by–step instructions to various tasks. “Our students need to be trained in a special way and have to be told exactly where to start and what steps to follow,” she explains.
Currently, Anandakrishnan works for four hours, six days a week. Jayashree says there is a lot to be done before the students can engage in full time employment. “We are working with physiotherapists to develop a programme to improve the endurance and stamina of these students so that they can adjust to the long working hours,” says Jayashree.