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Times of India
04 October 2010
Pune, India

It is absolutely essential to give vocational training to children with cerebral palsy (CP) so that they get a chance to earn when they grow up. Hence more such centres imparting vocational training to children with special needs should come up, experts unanimously said at a special seminar and panel discussion organised by a forum of doctors at Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital on Sunday.

With CP becoming the commonest cause of childhood disability in India, October 3, 2010 was declared as the ‘National Cerebral Palsy Day’ by doctors, rehab professionals, parents and people engaged in prevention and management of this impairment. The Indian Academy of Cerebral Palsy (IACP), an academic body formed by doctors and rehab professionals from across the country working for the cause of Cerebral Palsy, took this decision. The theme for the day was ‘Demystifying cerebral palsy by action through awareness and advocacy’.

"Parents are naturally shocked when they first hear that their child has CP or is physically disabled. But we should accept it and move forward," said special vocational educator Ujwala Karnik who also runs an institution at Navi Peth for CP children. "Depending on the therapists’ assessment, we decide the course of action at our institute. Our vocational training involves lot of activities like working on paper shredding machines, lamination machines, making paper bags, envelops, chakki work, instrumental music, making chutneys with mixers, computer training, etc,. The students also get a stipend for their work," Karnik said.

Girish Pande, head of the rehabilitation department of Sassoon general hospital, said that it was essential to take a disability certificate which was issued at Sassoon hospital after assessment of the child and documents. "The certificate is essential as the physically handicapped are entitled to concessions on transport , scholarships, appliances, wheelchairs, etc.," Pande said.

The parents should know the ‘Person with disabilities Act’, said advocate Mihir Raje. "They should know their rights in terms of education, accessibility and employment. The state and central co–ordination committees should work hand in hand to make education available to such kids. They must also be provided transport facilities, including proper footpaths, engraved zebra crossing, good accessibility to trains, buses, etc., must be provided. The chief commissioner of disabilities, who is based in Pune, can be approached to safeguard the rights," said Raje.

Speaking on integrated schooling , special educator Sunita Lele said that parents always want their kids to learn in a natural environment with normal kids. But it is important to know what the CP child requires. Parents should be emotionally strong and accept that their child is disabled. They should act as a support system and should start when the child is small and assess whether the child has mild or moderate disability. "Schools which have the Montessori philosophy and where the child can get multi–sensory learning should be selected," Lele said.

Ashok Johari, president, IACP, said, "The goal of observing National Cerebral Palsy Day as a nationwide programme is to increase awareness and knowledge on the subject for better services for CP. The effort is to demystify the riddle to the public at large and minimise the myths."

Johari added, "Around 60 per cent children with cerebral palsy have normal intelligence, and can be educated in normal schools and pursue wide range of careers by minimising the societal discrimination and attitudinal barriers. The social factors like caring, housing, education, employment and recreational expenses of cerebral palsy people are much bigger than the medical costs. We need to do much more for these people at societal and administrative levels. They need a system of health care across lifespan. This is the goal of IACP."

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