Madhumita Puri, who is the founder of the Delhi-based Society for Child Development (SFCD), was a leading psychologist in the late 80s. She was amongst the top psychologists from AIIMS’ Genetics department. As part of her research, she was also working for disabled and mentally challenged (also known as Intellectually Disabled) kids.
During her research, she observed that the major gap was because the entire focus was on the segmented approach for these kids. They were not given proper resources for the same and there was no holistic approach for their overall development.
She then approached her colleagues and friends from the institution and shared her plan to start a society which would provide these kids a better opportunity to learn. Her colleagues who were a mix of doctors and entrepreneurs, immediately consented to help her with the idea. “They are sleeping partners and all in some way were affected by the cause,” she says.
Society for Child Development started in 1991 out of a small flat at Gulabi Bagh, North Delhi. In the process of leaving AIIMS, she could work only part time at SFCD so her father helped her out initially. “This delayed the registration process,” says Madhumita. In 1992, Madumita’s father fell seriously ill which is when she started to look after the Society full time and implement her ideas for a holistic development. This was the year when the Society also got registered.
“In early 90s, there were only 9 institutions catering to the needs of intellectually disabled kids. Most of them were located in South Delhi. This is why I choose the north side of Delhi to start the organization.”
With an aim to provide good services and resources, rather than serve, Prabhat, a School for Intellectually Disabled was started as the flagship program of SFCD. With the prime focus on developing methodologies and bridging gaps, this school definitely stood concrete in the lives of poor intellectually disabled kids.
“I never had an aim to make money. I had enough to sustain and grow. Which is when poor people started approaching us since we were ready to provide any service which was needed. In the process, there was constant evolution – we were rethinking, reworking, redeveloping the models. I didn’t want to replicate any existing model and I was constantly researching new models.”
When a disabled kid is enrolled in a school, he/she will be given books which are meant for normal students. Special kids would not be able to catch the content or learn at a similar pace as other kids. SFCD recognized this gap and developed a model based on the capacity of a special child’s learning.
“We simply the content for them by teaching them only what is required and how to incorporate it into their daily lives. My Psychology background helped me understand how they should be taught. All the things I learned there could be implemented here. I used those principles and develop a sense of teaching.”
For a normal child, reading, writing and recognizing happen simultaneously. Unfortunately, most of the other schools for intellectually disabled are also following the same pattern. What sets SFCD apart is that we offer different classes for reading, writing, and recognition respectively.
“In the traditional approach, children are usually taught k, kh, g, gh (i.e. the Hindi alphabets) but these kids are never able to get that right. I observed how they were able to catch ‘bha’ first and then progress further. When I pondered over why does this happens, I realized how it is related to an infant. An infant’s first word is always ‘bha’ after their tongue turns and as they get used to the alphabets, they are able to pronounce even the complex ones. When I applied this concept, it created tremendous impact on the learning of the kids.”
As a kid arrives, they do a round of academics. As the day progresses, they do some physical activities like speech therapy under a tree, drawing etc. At 11am, they go for a meal and then there is a round of physical exercises like taekwondo etc.
With a mission to create equal opportunities, SFCD has transformed the entire learning system for these kids. Their effort in developing a novel model to meet the gap of holistic development is also one of the factors which sets the organization apart.