Mental Retardation refers to substantial limitation in over all functioning. It is characterized by significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with related limitation in many of the following applicable adaptive skill areas such as communication , self care, home living, social skills, functional academics, health and safety, leisure and work. Mental Retardation manifests before the age of 18. Adaptive skill areas refer to the degree with which the child meets the standard of personal independence and social responsibility expected of one’s age and cultural group. A mentally retarded child is developmentally slow i e he/she behaves like some one younger to him/her not only in the area of intellectual functioning or academics but every aspect of daily routine.
At Prem Ashram , there are 100 children with multiple disabilities like cerebral palsy, autism & mental retardation. Prior to the admission of a child a multidisciplinary team comprising of a special educator, psychologist, speech therapist, and an occupational therapist does a detailed assessment.
For the classroom, grouping of the children is done by following the Functional Academic Checklist Programme developed by the National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped such as: Care group, Pre-Primary,Primary-1, Primary-II, Secondary, Pre-vocational-I, pre-vocational-II and Vocational Training. They are grouped on the basis of their IQ and chronological age. In the classes the special educator makes an Individual Education Programme ,set goals for every child consulting different rehabilitation professionals and proceed with teaching using different teaching learning materials. Special Educator also makes lesson plans for group teaching and carries on with appropriate teaching aids. During the class hours children are taught functional academics ,curricular and co-curricular activities. A quarterly evaluation is done for every child to see the progress made by him/her.
To the children who are in the boarding , Self help skills like brushing, bathing , dressing, grooming , washing , toileting etc. are taught in their dormitories in appropriate time by trained and dedicated staff and care takers using different scientific techniques and methods. This makes them independent in these skills. In a small group of 6-8 in a bedroom peer tutoring is also quite beneficial.
Yoga is an ancient art based on an extremely subtle science, that of body, psych and soul. It is also a skillful method to calm down the mind. Yoga also helps for a holistic living ,ie physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual wellbeing. The children who are intellectually disabled with associated problems profit from a daily practice of yoga asanas.
Children at Prem Ashram have a daily practice of yoga in the morning. It helps them cultivate self discipline and increase concentration. Children with attention deficiency syndromes have shown considerable improvements in reducing hyperactivity. The mantras they recite during yoga help them to be aware of the absolute and keep them connected.
Morning Assembly And Prayer
The school activities at Prem Ashram begin with the morning assembly. Before the day starts all the children, teacher trainees and the staff gather together to pray to God for His blessings for the day and also to honor our country and its people. This is proceeded by morning exercises which keep them fit.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION, SPORTS AND GAMES
A healthy Mind in a Healthy Body
Physical Education is crucial to health, fitness and wellbeing. It builds strength and maintains mobility. It provides a foundation for active living and at its best fosters interest which continues for a life time. The benefits of physical education, sports and games for the mentally challenged are the development and co-ordination of the whole body, neurological connections, strengthening of bones and ensuring that various organs in the body work efficiently. Physical fitness also results in social and emotional benefits, such as developing a positive self esteem.
The students of Prem Ashram are trained by two well qualified coaches on a regular basis. This school is also associated with Special Olympics Bharat. Children participate both in National and International level competitions. In 2009 two of our athletes took part in world winter games in Idahu-USA and won gold medals in Snow Boarding and Floor Hockey. And in 2011 one athlete participated in world summer games in Greece-Athens in Roller Skating and won two gold and one bronze medals.
The major role of Education system is to prepare the students to have independent living skills. To be functionally competent within a community, it is essential for an individual to show a wide array of skills. Therefore the school curriculum includes pre-vocational and vocational skills. Students with intellectual disability get opportunity to engage themselves in different types of activities in which they express interest and have relatively some ability. The selected activities for training are likely to have generic value to several jobs in future and exposure to the activities as part of initiation in to work. Work related skills would prepare the students to enter into full-fledged vocational/work area.
At Prem Ashram facilities to develop pre-vocational skills are provided. At the vocational centre here, the children who are above 16 years are taught skills like candle making, chalk making, envelop making, teddy bear, flower , greeting card making etc.
Few children are also going to the Vocational Rehabilitation centre run by the Central Govt. in Una to learn some trades like cutting and tailoring, auto mobile repair etc.
Home Based Programme
Multiple Disabled children who are severe and profound who cannot attend a school ,services are being provided at home. Special Educators visit the homes of these children and teach them .Therapists like speech therapist, occupational therapist and psychologist also pay home visits to these children and give therapies. At present 40 children benefit from such services. This is under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.