Within the next week I (Alycia) will finish at the Unit and Samantha shall take over the OT volunteer post. Shruti is due to return to from her mountaineering course a week after Samantha arrives and this will then see a consistent team for 6 months which will foster progress within the Unit I’m sure.
It is tricky to know where or how to begin this post given the wealth of events during the past 9 weeks or so. In many ways it feels I have been a part of the Unit for an eternity, yet to same extent it feels as though I’ve only just arrived! I guess this is due to the daily/weekly routine that quickly sees days roll into weeks and weeks merge into months, coupled with ‘surprises’ that come from working within an estranged culture (hence, the volunteers seem to experience more ‘surprises’ than the permanent team).
It is my experience that the Unit is entering a new, changed phase as the number of children accessing the services of the Unit has increased. It has become common to deliver therapy to 8-11 children within a day (excluding a quiet 2 weeks that has been attributed to illness, local fairs and bus strikes) and the Unit has extended its involvement in Manali, increasing school visits from 2 to 7 days per month.
Previously Manali school visits and Naggar home visits took place alternate weeks. The current set routine sees a full team visit Manali 3 out 4 Thursdays, plus 4 additional days of OT input with Shruti visiting each Tuesday. However such changes have not been without compromise. Unsurprisingly the intervention delivered to children in Naggar and Nav Chetna School has been jeopardised and it seems necessary to carefully monitor the effects of change to inform and make explicit the altered scope of service delivered by the Unit; striking and maintaining the balance between quality and quantity!
I have LOVED getting to know the 10-15 children and mothers (a few fathers too) that have regularly attended sessions and find it surprising how quickly rapport and understanding can develop without a shared (verbal) language. The mothers’ love and acceptance of their children within a culture that can still exclude those with disabilities amaze me and I know the same is true for Christelle. The mothers appreciate therapy/sessions and it is wonderful when they are able to recognise progress in their children.
Deepak is a small boy with strong involuntary movements (extensor spasms). He is unable to independently maintain any position aside from lying. His mother, along with staff in the Unit, have noticed decreased muscle spasms which has supported him to orientate and attend his surroundings.
Kartik is a 6 year old boy with Cerebral Palsy. He began attending mainstream school 2 months ago following advice of the Unit. Before Shruti went on leave she visited Kartik in school and found him to be integrated with his peers and making academic progress. Kartik continues to attend the Unit outside of school hours to develop motor and cognitive capabilities to support continued progress.
As for day to day events, Christelle and I continue to badger (or help...) spend money on new resources for the children. Twister and the tunnel are proving to be a great success and value in the Unit and the current efforts are focused on obtaining a small trampoline and installing a swing (flat, rectangle base low to the floor…not a park swing). I would love to see them in place before I leave!
So on that note. My experience of the Unit is that it offers a unique service given the cost-free therapy and relaxed, open set-up that seems to encourage a natural hub of support for the mothers who often spend a few surplus hours in the Unit, talking with one another and utilising the resources. Without a doubt I shall miss the children and keep them in my thoughts for time to come.
Alycia Walker, OT volunteer
15 June 2012