Published: 23rd November 2021
This special ed teacher has fulfilled her dream of starting a development centre of her own. Here's what it's all about
Dr VA Jyothi's work is commendable and now, she is starting on a new chapter, a chapter that she has been waiting to embark on for a very long time now
After impacting the lives of several hearing and speech-impaired children as a special educator for over four decades now — Dr VA Jyothi is now the Honorary Director of Jyothi Development Centre. Started on October 15, 2021, the ground floor of a house in Uppal has been converted into this centre with two classrooms, one parents' waiting area and an office room. Special educators P Sudhakar Rao and P Nagalakshmi, former students of Dr Jyothi who have a combined experience of about ten years under their belt, have been hand-picked by her to join her crusade. "Not even one month clocked and we already have seven children enrolled at our centre. There are children with autism, hearing impairment and ADHD and all of them are being catered to individually with care," says the multiple-award-winning educator, one of her most prestigious honours being the Best Teacher Award (Annie Sullivan) by the Government of (United) Andhra Pradesh in 2002.
The phone was ringing off the hook with concerned parents calling by the dozens, requesting Dr Jyothi to take their children with special needs under her wing. She knew she had to go above and beyond the call of duty and that's why the centre came about. The aim is the same, to bring special kids up to speed with the learning abilities of their age and integrate them into normal schools — a task that Dr Jyothi has been carrying out for a very long time now. As someone who has developed and implemented a Pre-school Training Programme at the institute, she is now training Sudhakar and Nagalakshmi too to carry out the same and she, as the Honorary Director of the centre, oversees everything. Even when she is not at the centre and is busy with her duties, she keeps an eye on things, literally, with the cameras installed at the centre.
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"Those who are hearing impaired and have received hearing aids first need to be taught how to distinguish between gross and fine sounds, so that's where the training commences," says the powerhouse educator. Animal, letter, vehicle and several other sounds are introduced to the child patiently, basically, an auditory training of sorts is carried out and flashcards are used too. The goal is to acquaint the child with 300 to 400 words in the first year. "As usual, parents' involvement is of optimum importance. We encourage mothers to ensure that their child tags around when they are doing household chores and they are encouraged to explain every activity they are doing so that the child can pick up more and more words," she explains. While the programme is for two years, if the child picks up quickly, the next step of school integration begins after the first year itself. Using the network she has built over the years, she encourages nearby schools to take up these children.
For those with intellectual disabilities, with an IQ below 90, the first aspect that's worked on is their self-help skills like buttoning shirts, wearing shoes, asking for the washroom or some water. "We have a 14-year-old child whose IQ is that of a six-year-old, so we are slowly and steadily bringing him up to speed. The syllabus is different for everyone because the needs of everyone are different," states Dr Jyothi. As far as ADHD is concerned, the priority is to develop sitting tolerance and engage the child in a task for at least ten minutes. How else will they focus on classes at school otherwise? "We also counsel parents, asking them not to pamper and give in to temper tantrums of children," she says. Activities that explore their creative side, like clay-modelling, watercolour painting and so on, generally helps.
"There is another student at our centre who was having trouble copying from the blackboard. So we need to reacquaint them with words," says Dr Jyothi about students who have dyslexia. In this way, unconquerable disabilities are worked on in tandem with parents so that the lessons can be carried home and taught there as well.