Bengaluru: Two child psychologists and special educators, Naomi Menon and Madhuri Mohan, have set out on a unique mission to help children with special needs.
Naomi, a special educator and child psychologist who has also done her Masters in inclusive education, had made up her mind to open a centre that focuses on special education. She wanted to help devise ways and techniques to explore ideas and implement them in schools. This gave birth to 'Merritude', a holistic development centre, which has been set up at Whitefield. Apart from helping children with various learning disabilities, the centre also organises workshops for parents.
"The main focus is on children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mild Autism, learning difficulties and behavioural concerns. But the idea is to open a place for all children and an inclusive centre where any child can walk in and seek help," explains Naomi.
Recently, Merittude in association with the Rotary Club Bangalore, conducted a parenting seminar and Salma Prabhu, a renowned author, clinical psychologist and special educator from Mumbai, helped the parents understand various issues. "The biggest road block sometimes is from parents, who do not accept that their child might require some help and guidance or that their child has ADHD or other learning disability. This delays the help to such children," she says.
The holistic development centre was set up in May 2017 for children and young adults focused on learning difficulties, behavioural problems and also to provide career guidance. "It is open for children from 5 years to 25 years and we help them with their issues," Naomi says.
Considering the increasing number of cases of children with various psychological issues, Naomi feels that these centres can provide answers to their problems. "There are very few centres that work on these lines, but it is mostly a small network and sadly, because of lack of much regulation in this field, parents also question the legitimacy of such centres and then are unsure about which centre to reach out to. This too is a concern," she says.
"It is important because the kind of needs children have these days is growing and because of technology and social media, the pressures are getting harder and a lot more. Such centres can help schools manage these issues better and empower the children as well," she says.
Naomi and Madhuri have been reaching out to schools, but till now it is mainly the word of mouth that has got parents to visit their centre. "Currently, we are working with a child with ADHD and learning disabilities," says Naomi.
"Our motto is Perspective, Potential and Excellence and it entails the understanding of perspectives, discovering potentials and working toward excellence. The centre also conducts both parenting and teaching workshops apart from career guidance and personal counselling. Under personal counselling, one-on-one sessions with children are held on various issues that they are facing. Individualised modules based on the needs of the child are worked on. We try and instil the child with the necessary coping skills," she says.
Their goal, however, is to focus on teacher education programmes, apart from counselling and remedial education. "Teachers need to be educated and made aware of these disabilities and they need to be empowered with the basic tools to help include these children into mainstream education. We will focus on that in the near future, but now, we are taking things slow and focusing only on these children," she sums up....