Presently there are 33 children and youth attending our day-care programme. This group is very mixed ranging from age five to over thirty years old. They have various disabilities with individual special needs. Many of them are mentally challenged often combined with a poor concentration span and with hyperactivity. Some have multiple impairment and require diverse therapeutic intervention and medical help. Others are severely physically challenged and in need for intensive physiotherapy and are therefore not able to attend mainstream schools. Several students are hearing impaired and need to wear hearing aids and require a lot of training to be able to learn to speak, or to read and write.
The daily schedule is important for children with special needs as it helps them to integrate and to orientate themselves: In the morning, on arrival between 8.30 and 9 am, each child brushes their teeth. The “morning circle” is a lively event to start the day. It gets prepared by different team members, including our volunteers. Activities such as body awareness exercises, games, singing and a short meditation are included.
Special education happens in the morning in individual sessions or in small groups. Some children learn to match objects, to distinguish and name the basic colors, counting at least up to 10 or beyond. Some children learn to write their own name, others learn how to read and write in Tamil, as well as basic maths skills. If possible, the older ones learn to use money and practice shopping. At 10.30 am there is a break for snacks. Following this, there are various activities such as games, handicrafts or individual sessions. A healthy lunch is served at 12.30 pm. The children are involved in cleaning up. Afterwards there is resting time up to 2 pm. In the afternoon we offer activities such as clay work, painting, outdoor games and swimming. We believe that appropriate creative and physical activities are important to nurture the specific needs of our children.
The day-care group is mixed in age and abilities. It can be quite challenging to match their different needs. The colourful and lively exchange between our children is beautiful. The more capable children help the weaker ones. Many people who visit Deepam are touched by the cheerfulness of our children and the special atmosphere.
The social aspect is constantly considered – the children are encouraged to move in the group, to be patient and have consideration, to share, to respect rules, not to harass each other and to communicate appropriately.
Our goal is to empower the children and their parents to eventually be independent from our help. We have gradually integrated a few “older ones” into outside work places. This is a big achievement. For those with severe impairments integration outside will not be possible. Nevertheless all of them have made visible progress and are able to take up some tasks at Deepam. Another big focus is on handicrafts as a means to enhance various skills. All of our children know how to handle pencils, brushes and scissors. They are proud of their creative products. Probably none of them will go for an academic career – therefore we introduce them as early as possible gradually to vocational skills.