The pandemic has thrown us all into a state of complete chaos. For you and me, as “typically” functioning individuals, the pandemic has upturned and rocked our lifeboat, leaving us in a state of constant anxiety. I need not elaborate further; you know exactly what I mean 😊.
Being parents of children with special needs, in “normal” circumstances, is quite challenging. There is a need to constantly stay on top of issues that their peers may not have to deal with in an entire lifetime. The search for adequate or even basic therapeutic support is a prime issue here in India, more specifically in the Kullu Valley. Becoming their child’s fulltime therapist requires superhuman physical and especially emotional strength. Having to deal with uncooperative family environments, relationships and, the oh-so critical eyes of the stigma filled society is no walk in the park! Now throw Covid-19 into that mix! It isn’t exactly what anybody would picture as an ideal life.
Isolation, contact restrictions, and economic shutdown impose a complete change to everyone’s psychosocial environment. Even though this current crisis can provide opportunities for personal growth, family cohesion, and an overall appreciation of the little things, the disadvantages outweigh the benefits, especially when it comes to children with special needs.
The initial months of lockdown went in a fervent expectation of it to reach its end soon. In the following months of June and July, our entire team has been able to meet safely at our primary Center in person, fired up to get back to work.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the team, we have been able to plan and conduct “Parent Support Groups and Webinars” via Zoom. These sessions have provided the parents of our children with the informational support they require to help their children at home. Though many of our children have seen improvements at home because of family interactions and parental involvement, there are quite a few who have regressed in progress despite the therapist’s best efforts to provide support and detailed integrated home plans. Many factors of course contribute to this, but the pandemic has opened our eyes to the fact that our approach needs to be rethought!
We decided that it is high time we make adjustments and try to thrive in this “new normal”. Our team got to work and modified our primary therapy Center to suit the Covid-19 hygiene requirements. After multiple trips to the local government offices, we are very happy to announce that our therapy center is now open for in-person therapy!
Though operating under restrictions and social distancing measures, we have seen a steady inflow of children and their parents seeking the help they so desperately needed and missed over the lockdown period.
This has been a period of adjustment and learning for all of us. But I believe, for the better. Teamwork certainly does help the dream work!
Though things have been running smoothly for the past 3 weeks, we have an aching for the children we cannot visit in their homes due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, and the inability to safely bring therapeutic services into their homes. Our community-based rehabilitation team members have to take multiple modes of public transportation and often change vehicles once or twice to access most of the children. This causes a potential risk not just to our team, but to the children and their families as well. We are brainstorming on how to combat this issue with our limited resources.
We sincerely hope and pray that all the children in our care are well and safe and protected from the fatality of the virus, while they receive the therapeutic care they need. As an extremely marginalized group, our children have only us to advocate for them! We welcome and humbly request you to join the fight for our cause by lending support, suggestions, and of course, donate to our organization, to help us reach children throughout the state district, and with your support, throughout the State!
I strongly believe that no act of kindness is ever wasted! Even if not financially, please do share our posts, advocate for our cause, normalize, and help fight the stigma against disability by bringing it into your daily conversations! Visit organizations near you, even if not in person, virtually! Communicate with us via Facebook or Instagram to find out the different ways you can contribute and be a change maker.
We as global citizens are trying to adjust to a “new normal”. Let us not leave behind those who cannot speak for themselves. Use your platforms, resources, and influence to advocate for an inclusive society, and let’s all fight this TOGETHER!!
Grace E. Muppidi
Occupational Therapist, Handimachal Therapy Center.