Friday, January 13, 2006

Shristi Special Academy

This write up is by vinod. Our unofficial "coachji". He has run 4 marathons and more than 10 half marathons. He has raised funds for Asha many times during these runs.

He co-ordinates the Shristi special academy project supported by Asha Austin.

So, here goes.....

This story starts with a little girl named Deepthi.

An active and alert seven-year-old, Deepthi loves solving puzzles and
playing with her friends. Like any other seven year old, she loves
being the center of attraction in her class and takes a leading role
in participating and initiating activities in her peer group.

What you will find remarkable is the change the past few years have
brought about in her.

A history of birth asphyxia and seizures had left Deepthi weak and
small for her age. Delayed development milestones meant that she was
unable to chew or swallow – she was on milk even at the age of three.
A history of hyper ammonia syndrome resulted in a very monotonous
diet, which further contributed to her weakness. She couldn't walk or
talk or localize visually. Her future looked bleak at best.

This was when her parents brought her to Shristi, in November 1998.

Shristi is a non-profit society, established in 1995 by 3 special
educators with a vision to reach out to individuals with special
needs. With unique programmes designed to enable independence among
the Mentally Challenged, Developmentally Delayed and those with Autism
and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Shristi reaches out to all
age groups. It remains among the few institutions, which caters to
infants and even the severely retarded across urban and rural

The rehabilitation of those coming to Shristi includes therapeutic
intervention with a focus on special education, sensory stimulation,
physiotherapy and language stimulation.

Through an intensive, individualized and child-focused training
program, Shristi has enabled many young children with developmental
delays to go to normal schools, setting them on the path towards a
more normal life. Several older individuals have gained employment
enabling life-changing happiness.

Deepthi joined on one such special Early Intervention programme in
November 1998. The primary goal of her programme was to ensure better
nutrition and feeding practices, as this was the major problem faced
by her mother. Special emphasis was also given to helping her catch
up with her motor milestones, primary among them being walking.

Today at 7 years, although she still has seizures, which are
controlled by medication, she has learned to walk, communicates
through single words and gestures and takes part in all activities of
the class. She eats with minimal help under supervision and is on a
toilet schedule to help streamline her bladder movements and achieve
better levels of normalcy. She is receiving occupational therapy for
her hand functions and through speech therapy will achieve better
levels of communication.

Asha Austin's role is to help Shristi find suitable educators for
various domains: Mental retardation, Autism and Vocational Training.
These educators are specialized to handle mentally challenged and
autistic children at Shristi. Then Asha endeavors to find sponsors for
these teachers and facilitates linking sponsors with them. Asha
follows through by disbursing and monitoring the sponsors' funds. It
works with both sponsors and Shristi in India to obtain regular
progress reports of the children handled by the teachers and build a
strong sponsor-teacher communication. The sponsor can also arrange a
visit to Shristi through Asha and the project coordinators in India.

This program makes it possible for an individual to sponsor partial or
full cost of supporting one teacher at Shristi Special Academy. The
teachers at Shristi are special educators trained to work with
mentally challenged and autistic children. We believe retaining
educators in the system is the way to sustain education, particularly
in the context of special education. Committed though they are,
supporting these educators financially is a necessary part of
retaining them within the system. One can become a sponsor for a
teacher at Shristi for as little as $20 a month.

More details about Asha's support with Shristi can be found at

More details about Shristi is at

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