“I have to face it and admit it,” said Usha Uppal, mother of two special children aged 30 (daughter) and 36 (son).
Uppal, a postgraduate, had to leave a career of teaching long back to be with her children always, especially son, who is autistic and has multiple problems.
Always worried about kids, the struggling mother’s solace is Udaan, an NGO of parents of mentally retarded children in Shimla for last decade and a half.Purely on donations by parents and other benevolent individuals, Udaan started with day care centre for 3-4 children initially and grew to facilitate 55 children with intellectual and development disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy and mental retardation over time.
Out of these, 40 come for the day care and 15, who are mostly from upper parts of Shimla, are lodged in hostel run by NGO.
Udaan provides them individualised special education trains them in daily activities and functional areas like social mobility and helps them do vocational courses for financial sustenance.
The origin of Udaan was need based. Ten parents had got together to form and register Udaan Parents and Guardians Society in 2002 to evolve some system for special children, who were earlier restricted to their homes, fighting a lonely battle against disability most of the time.
The NGOs are taking care of such children at smaller level in different districts, but there is only one residential facility for them in Una, apart from Udaan.
“We tried home based education programme of the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyaan. But it did not give results. So we focussed on having our own school in 2005. We created awareness among the parents for early intervention. If the critical time of learning goes, it becomes difficult for the child to grasp,” said Lalita Rana, a parent and Administrator with Udaan. She said the Udaan helps the children till their parents want, mostly till 18 years and find out vocational courses and avenues for them. “Some children facilitated by us are doing well in life,” she said.
But Udaan has multiple problems too. The Udaan runs in a private building and pays monthly rent of Rs 90,000. It has 18 regular employees and some part time workers. The Udaan faces difficulties every day in transporting children from their homes for day care centre for want of vehicles.
“We do get donations from individuals and they adopt the children too. The government provides us funds for some children. But we need to have our own home for expansion and permanency,” said some parents members. The Udaan had urged the government for land on lease and had identified a chunk in Pujarli near Shimla for a permanent home, but the proposal has been hanging fire for last five years.