Making them feel special

Ambika Shaligram
Friday, 5 January 2018

In conversation with Dr Neelima Desai who works with mentally-challenged adults. Her book detailing her journey releases on Sunday.

A mother to a mentally-challenged daughter, Dr Neelima Desai has known the joys, sorrows involved in raising such children. Without making herself or her family a ‘victim’, she has tried to help her daughter to be as independent as she can, gainfully occupied, healthy and happy. Significantly, Desai extended this vision to other special children as well, by setting up a residential home for adult mentally-challenged, called Navkshitij on the outskirts of the city.

This journey has been encompassed in her book, Praudh Matimandache, Prem Va Jivhalyache — Navkshitij (Navkshitij — Home for the Mentally Challenged). To be released on Sunday by Prataprao Pawar, chairman, Sakal Media Group, the book will be a guide to parents, family and all the stakeholders involved.

Says Dr Desai, “My book talks about my experiments in raising my daughter, to the setting up of Navkshitij Organisation, looking after adults with IQ range of 20-70. In most cases that we have seen, having a mentally-challenged/special child at home, does have an impact on the family. Sometimes, the younger or older sibling may feel side-lined with all the attention and concern lavished on the special child. The parents often forget that they have a life of their own; they live with the worry of what will happen to the child, in their absence. So we founded Navkshitij, where mentally challenged adults between the ages of 18 and 35 can reside and lead their independent lives.”

Just as normal youth step out of their homes in search of a better life, so can these kids, believes Desai. It’s a failing of our society that doesn’t know how to deal with special children/youth, or take into account their aspirations and willingness to contribute to the society, to feeling useful.

“These kids are often neglected, mostly out of ignorance. When parents are working or siblings are studying, what are they supposed to do? In such cases, out of boredom, because their energies are not channelised, they may become aggressive. Often their aggressive behaviour is labelled as ‘mad’ by other people,” she adds.

To channelise their energies into something constructive, Dr Desai and her team have worked on a time-table at Navkshitij, which allows the residents to have ample time to harness their skills, play games, exercise interact with each other, meet their families etc.

When asked if there is also a session with counsellors, the founder-president of the organisation replies, “We have realised that it is better to have a conducive, positive atmosphere for the residents, instead of having a session with counsellors. Of course, we do arrange for visits by a psychiatrist/s for residents who are on medication. The residents at Navkshitij are those who are able to perform most of their daily activities and are not bed-ridden. With little assistance, they feel good about themselves; that’s what our aim is.”

ST Reader Service
Dr Neelima Desai’s Marathi book, Praudh Matimandache, Prem Va Jivhalyache — Navkshitij, will be released by Dr Prataprao Pawar, chairman, Sakal Media Group, on Sunday, 11 am at Patrakar Bhavan

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