Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Posts tagged ‘Developmental Disabilities’

How secure are women with disabilities?

How secure are women with


womenrightsRecently I heard of two incidents which made me ask myself this very question, how secure are women with disabilities (WwD)?

In one incident a young mother of 35 hung her two teenage daughters both intellectually challenged, and herself. I guess she got tired of the pressures of life, the social stigma for having intellectually challenged daughters and an alcoholic husband. In the second case, a intellectually challenged girl, in a near by rural district, was taking food for her father in the field. On the way she was accosted, raped and murdered.

rightsThese two incidents bring to the fore one prominent fact, WwD; particularly women with mental illness and those intellectually challenged are not safe, either in their homes or in public.

In the first incident, the girls were obviously a burden to their mother, who was a poor lady, fighting for sustenance. She probably worried about what would happen to her children after she grew too old to provide for them. To her tormented mind, suicide was the only option.

Yet, she needed to be told that there was help. She needed to be given help. We have the Mental Health Act 1987, The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities and Full Participation) Act 1995, The Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act 1995, the Indian Penal Code and probably more legislations than you and I can recall. Yet how many of these legislations are preventive, how many call for policy changes, how many policies that have been drafted and passed are being implemented? So many questions and the death of these girls is answer enough, about the situation of despair.

In the second incident, the girl was probably mildly intellectually challenged, so she was able to follow simple instructions and was taking lunch to her father. Obviously some lecherous man found in this simply girl a soft target. He also found in her a dispensable target. Undoubtedly this incident reveals a debased mind, but what about the girl, what does her family learn from this incident. What do other families with intellectually challenged girls learn from this incident? Do any of us expect that the girl and her family will get justice? Should we write this off as yet another death that will go by with no lessons learnt?


All those who are intellectually challenged are not ‘useless’. There are different degrees of disability. Depending upon the degree, they can be trained, to take care of themselves, to take simple decisions and even do simple tasks that can allow them to earn a small living. Yet families are made to believe they have people who are vegetables.


This article is full of questions. I don’t have answers to all of them, but I am searching, and perhaps you would like to join in too.

If you are an NGO or an association for people with disabilities (PwD), please put the security of WwD prominent on your agenda. If you are a parent with an intellectually challenged child please join parents associations, experience the strength of a collective and begin lobbing the government for welfare facilities. If you are a sensitive citizen and are concerned about PwD and WwD, please volunteer time. If you are a bureaucrat or are in a position of power please leverage it so that the lives of a few PwD are made better or even saved.

Developmental Disabilities

Developmental Disabilities


For a long while, it was believed that people with DD were incapable of learning.

Commonly known as mental retardation, Developmental Disabilities (DD) is a term used for a pattern of persistently slow learning of basic motor and language skills during childhood and significantly below-normal intellectual ability as an adult. One common criterion for the diagnosis of DD is a tested intelligence quotient of 70 or below and deficits in adaptive functioning.

DD is diagnosed by looking at two main aspects: the ability of a person’s brain to learn, think, solve problems and make sense of the world; and a person’s ability to develop skills that allow for independent living. Some of the common signs that help identify DD in a child are delay in sitting, crawling or walking and delayed speech. As the child grows older DD manifests itself as difficulty in remembering, trouble understanding social rules, trouble seeing the consequences of their action, trouble solving problems, thinking logically and persistence of infantile behaviour.

The causes of DD could be anywhere from genetic conditions like Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Mowat-Wilson Syndrome, or Phenylketonuria to problems during pregnancy such as fetal alcohol syndrome or the mother having rubella. DD can also be caused due to problems at birth — if the baby does not get enough oxygen during birth, or the improper use of forceps which fractures the skull and causes brain damage.


Health problems like the new born developing whooping cough, measles or meningitis can also result in DD, so can iodine deficiency, which affects approximately two billion people worldwide and is known to be the leading preventable cause of DD. Another cause of DD and of deep concern in a country like India is malnutrition. The National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau’s figures for 2006-07 show a deficit of over 500 calories in the intake of 1-3 year olds and 700 calories amongst 3-6 year olds.

For a long while, it was believed that people with DD were incapable of learning and were therefore largely ignored and left to themselves, with little or no social interaction and an un-stimulating environment. Thankfully, today we know better. When responding to people with DD it is necessary to remember that every person is born with some amount of potential and early intervention is most important so as to bring out the full potential of the child. With support and teaching, children with DD can learn to do many things. People with DD learn throughout their lives and can obtain new skills even late in life with help from their families and caregivers.

Even though training children with DD can be quiet a challenge, the government has taken a positive step towards mainstreaming those with DD into the education system, through the launch of the Sarva Shiksha Abhayan. SSA promises inclusive education for all with a zero rejection policy and strives for 100 per cent retention in schools. Even though teachers have much to learn about dealing with children with DD, incorporating a few changes can go a long way in making a child independent and confident.


Teachers need to develop an understanding of DD to facilitate effective intervention and realise that they have the power to make an enormous difference in the student’s life. Teachers need to teach life skills such as daily living, social skills and occupation awareness. Involve students with DD in group activities and get other students to interact with them. Break longer, new tasks into small steps and demonstrate them when necessary. Besides providing immediate feedback, teachers must constantly encourage and praise the child.

An equally invaluable resource to the child is the parents and family. Meeting parents frequently to acquaint them with the child’s progress means that the child can be involving into meaningful activity — both at school and home. In the long run, this removes over dependence on parents and caregiver.

(The writer is a member of DisAbilityFirst, an advocacy group working on issues of disability)

The above article appeared in the Bangalore edition of the Deccan Herald on 16th April 2008 and can also be viewed at

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: