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Students at Okhla Centre

History

At a seminar held in Delhi in 1964 social workers, doctors and parents of mentally handicapped children discussed the problem of inadequate facilities available in India for the education, training and rehabilitation of mentally handicapped children and decided to form a society.

Accordingly, a society under the name of The Delhi Society for the Welfare of Mentally Retarded Children was registered in the year 1965. This is a voluntary organization registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act of 1860. Recently, at the General Body Meeting held on 5.03.06, it was decided that, in keeping with the times, the Society be renamed as Delhi Society for the Welfare of Special Children.

As per census 2001, the range of the completely disabled in the country is between 2-3% of the total population. It is estimated that in India more than 50% of the disabled are mentally challenged people, of whom about 8 million are children of school-going age. These children cannot go to an ordinary school; they cannot grow up with the mind of an ordinary adult. Yet, with patience and skill, they might be trained to do things for themselves, to read and write a little, to learn a simple trade and to become useful members of the community. Unfortunately, adequate facilities for education, training and rehabilitation of these children are not available in the country, with the result that a vast majority of them are forced to lead a life of misery, which is a source of frustration to themselves and their families.

In 1966 the Society organized the first All India Seminar on Mental Retardation. At this seminar both the Prime Minister Ms. Indira Gandhi and the Minister for Social Welfare made it clear that in the subsequent years, care for the mentally handicapped would fall on voluntary agencies. The Society, therefore, launched a project to provide special schooling and workshop training to the mentally disabled and establish research facilities for the study of causes and prevention of mental disability and also, to find ways and means for their rehabilitation.

The Building Fund was launched in November 1967 and within a short span the Society raised Rs.1,00,000/-through sale of Building Fund coupons and donations. This was matched by an equal grant by OXFAM. The Government of India also sanctioned a grant of Rs.84,000/- towards the Building Fund. The President of the Society Ms. Yasho Karan Singh also made a personal contribution of Rs one lakh to build a Holiday Home for the children.

In 1968 the Society acquired a plot of land, situated directly opposite the Holy Family Hospital, from the Delhi Development Authority, for the purpose of construction of its own building. On 6th April, 1969, the late Dr.Zakir Hussain, then President of India, laid the foundation stone of the building. Less than a year later, the first wing housing a school for 50 children, was ready for occupation. Two playgrounds and a second wing were built shortly afterwards to expand the school to include 100 children.

On 1st March, 1970, the All India Women's Conference (AIWC) handed over the Society and the School for Mentally Retarded Children started by them at 6, Bhagwandas Road. Mrs. S.M. Pathak of the AIWC continues to be associated with the Society as one of its oldest serving office bearers. The Training-cum-Research Centre for mentally retarded children was formally inaugurated by Shri V.V.Giri, the then President of India, on 5 th April, 1970.

In 1975, the President of the Society, Mrs. Yasho Karan Singh made a personal donation of Rs.2.75 lakhs to construct a Vocational Training Centre block in the school.

In 1976 the Society equipped the Diagnostic Clinic for the purpose of assessing the children in Audiometry. This was later expanded.

With financial assistance from the State Bank of India the Society set up in 1979 the Vocational Training Centre to equip mentally retarded children with simple repetitive skills in printing, candle making, handloom weaving, caning of chairs, and making of file covers and envelopes.

The services in the Diagnostic and Child Guidance Clinic were expanded to evaluate development of mentally handicapped children in the area of academics, learning, skills, psychosocial adjustment, interpersonal relationships, vocational aptitudes and health. Presently, about 150-200 children are evaluated each year by a team of specialists consisting of a pediatrician, clinical psychologist, speech therapist, special educator, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and social worker. A comprehensive rehabilitation programme is designed for each child. Parents are given guidance for home training of those children who cannot be admitted to the school.

In 1985 the Society launched a project for sponsorship and adoption of poor children by charitable trusts, social and welfare organizations and wellwishers of the mentally challenged. Under this scheme a donor pays the annual expenses of one or more of the students on the rolls of Okhla Centre. The Centre keeps them informed about the progress of such children.

With a generous contribution of Rs 2,71,424/- by the Women's India Association of the United Kingdom, London, the Society set up a Rehabilitation Centre to provide sheltered employment to handicapped children trained at the Vocational Training Centre. Initially, 10 handlooms were installed which currently provide employment to about 20 children. In 1989 the Society constructed a Sheltered Workshop block at a cost of Rs 13 lakhs.

The Teachers' Training Institute was established in 1999, in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Council of India. It was set up essentially in order to upgrade the existing special educators and to train them with necessary skills required in managing children with special needs.

In the new millennium, on 9 th January, 2003, another milestone was reached, when the new building ' Yasho Bhawan ' was inaugurated by Lt. Governor Shri Vijay Kapoor on the birthday of Ms. Yasho Karan Singh, President of Delhi Society for the Welfare of Special Children. Dr. Karan Singh, M.P., presided over the function.

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

•  To promote the welfare and ensure training and education of special children of all ages.

•  To undertake and encourage scientific and other research work related to mental retardation and to promote ameliorative and preventive measures.

•  To help and advise parents and friends of special children and to foster mutual help between them.

•  To gather and disseminate information on mental retardation and to collect all books and literature on the subject and to maintain a library open to the public.

•  To develop better understanding of problems of mental retardation by the public.

•  To maintain a record of the mentally retarded in the Delhi area so as to facilitate promotion of training and education programmes.

•  To cooperate with public, private and religious agencies and professional groups and organizations in the furtherance of these ends.

•  To encourage and help the formation of similar societies for the welfare of the mentally retarded and to cooperate with those that already exist; and to affiliate, associate or cooperate with the Societies of the Federation having similar objects.

•  Undertake such activities that may be deemed incidental or conducive to the attainment of the above aims and objects.

•  Focus projects such as setting up Day Care Centres, Day Schools, Boarding Schools, Diagnostic Clinics, Rehabilitation Clubs, Vocational Training Centres, Pre-Vocational Training Centres, Holiday Homes, Canteens and similar institutions for the rehabilitation of the mentally retarded.

•  To promote sports and cultural activities among the disabled and take part in National and International meets/competitions.