Despite visiting Ummeed and NASEOH, 2 Bombay-based NGOs that work for the mentally disabled, I was apprehensive about my visit to the AMC. How should I greet the beneficiaries? What language should I speak to them in? What tone? How should I respond if I do not understand what they are saying? Nagging thoughts on appropriate mannerisms when interacting with them plagued me till an hour or so into my visit. Because that’s how long it took for me to be at ease and comfortable with the people there – in fact more so than I would have ever imagined! And this was all thanks to the organisation’s beneficiaries, who welcomed me with wide and wider toothed smiles. Extremely happy to meet me, their “Good Morning” through my day-long visit made me forget all the apprehensions I had.
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How it all began
The Association for the Mentally Challenged (AMC) is the first institution in Karnataka for the care of intellectually challenged persons. It is also the second national level institution serving this group of citizens in the country. The need for a service to the intellectually disabled was highlighted due to a lot of children with mental retardation being brought to the mental hospital as the parents/family/society thought them to be mentally ill. Thus, the idea of setting up such an institution was mooted by the dynamic and dedicated Dr. D L N Murti Rao, then director of All India Institute of Mental Health (currently NIMHANS, Bangalore). The institution was started in 1960 under the presidency of Dr. D L N Murti Rao. In the initial phase, it started as a bi-weekly clinic in two rooms spared by the Central Social Welfare Board. Dr. Murti Rao and his colleagues, doctors and psychologists, helped in running the clinic.
Given the sensitive nature of the students at AMC, I have refrained from identifying them. But would like to give a glimpse of the lives they have changed through quotes.
“I am the mother of a 6 year old child with Down’s syndrome. My daughter has been at AMC for the last year. As parents, we wanted very much for our daughter to study in a ‘regular’ school. However, our past experiences were very unsatisfactory. For example, at the nursery school, the teacher would only involve other children in singing and dancing, as my daughter was not coming forward of her own accord…”