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Mumbai: A very special 50 for a special school

Updated on: 06 September,2023 08:20 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Hemal Ashar |

Awareness, acceptance, inclusion and integration focus of SPJ Sadhana School golden jubilee celebrations

Mumbai: A very special 50 for a special school

The all-round activities for holistic development

The SPJ Sadhana School, a school dedicated to teaching children and young adults with Special Education Needs (SEN), is marking its golden jubilee. The specialist school with a current student strength of 83, aged between five and 23 years old, is located inside the Sophia College campus in Breach Candy and takes in SEN students to help them learn to adjust to the world.

While sometimes called mentally challenged or intellectual disability, the contemporary use is SEN, the school educators inform. These students suffer from challenges like Cerebral Palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Global Developmental Delay, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Mental Retardation, Slow Learners and those who have Down’s Syndrome. ‘Special Education Needs' is a legal definition and refers to children with learning problems or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children the same age.

Starting small

The school started in 1973. School principal Fionika Sanghvi and the teachers recalled, “This was a small school known as ‘Tinkerbell’ started by three dedicated mothers 50 years ago. Today it is housed in four floors of a building.” The growth has not merely been of brick ’n’ mortar, this has been an evolutionary process as acknowledgement and awareness about SEN people has grown. Sanghvi said there are certain immediate challenges. “The number of students enrolled in the school. Post COVID, student numbers have dropped.  The reasons are the inability to cope with the school environment and fear to move out of their comfort zone, which is their homes. Secondly, parents have very high expectations and hope to send their child to regular schools. Although, inclusion is important only by understanding at what stage a child with special needs (particularly ID–Intellectual Disability) can be ready to cope with the challenges of normalcy, is vital,” said Sanghvi.

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Priya Dsouza, staffer and co-ordinator at the school, said, “Our students have good skills when taught appropriately and those skills become strengths. For example, when we look at art products some students can do only surface painting, while a few can do small fine painting, while a few can only draw. When all three skills come together, a saleable item is produced. They are now not slotted into regular boxes, but are able to adapt to their abilities and use it for out-of-the-box careers. One example is blogging and making YouTube videos or vlogging. Many children with cerebral palsy have rigidity in their limbs although they are very intelligent. New careers like vlogging etc come to the rescue of these abled persons instead of being a misfit in a regular stream of workforce.”

Tejal Kothari, co-ordinator intermediate level at the school, added, “They can contribute in creative industries like graphic design, painting, music, and other artistic endeavours.  They can also have a role in data entry, organisation and basic data computation, use of computers can be a good fit for those with attention to detail and structured work environments.” Kashmira Vazifdar, psychologist and arts-based therapy practitioner, added, “When there is more visibility of neurodivergent people in educational institutions, in the workforce, in cultural and creative arts streams, in public places, then people are able to identify and appreciate their abilities, rather than just see them as ‘disabled’.”

The events

The school has planned events to mark the milestone like concerts where school students will participate along with neurotypical students. There are internships being worked out in different streams, where students will be able to understand the demands of the workforce and learn to adapt. An exhibition is being planned where the school will display products and invite NGOs to display their items for greater synergy and sports activities where students of this school will participate with those from other special schools.

Student strength of SPJ Sadhana School

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