We are working closely with mainstream schools in Chennai and Bangalore for inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream classrooms by
- Aiding policy decisions and evolving the right perspective to inclusion
- Working out the actual process of inclusion
Amelio Day Care Centre
Amelio provides customised daycare solutions to companies. Amelio is dedicated to providing high quality employer-sponsored early childhood education and day-care services. They develop day-care solutions for companies in India, so employees can be closer to their children, and watch them learn and grow.
Mirra has been working with Amelio right from conception in formulating a curriculum for teaching/learning processes and implementing it. Lifestyle changes are leading to a lot of subtle difficulties in children, for example, in fine motor skills, motor planning, attention, speech and language, etc., which surface in pre-primary and early primary classes as difficulty in reading, writing, attention in a group and independent work skills. To address these issues, Mirra has conducted parent/teacher workshop on child development. These sessions are focussed on promoting holistic development in children and aim at bringing in the right stimulation at home and at the centre.
The management of Amelio is driven by a deep sense of providing quality service. They constantly update themselves with the latest developments in the field of child care. They also give a lot of importance to providing an emotionally secure environment.
APL (Academy for Personalized Learning) Global School was started in 2008 by Dr. Vasanthi Vasudev of Osmosys Learning Products & Services and Gita Jagannathan of the Ramaniyam Group. They have an accreditation from Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and cater to children from kindergarten to Senior school program (3 to 18 years).
APL offers three streams of teaching-learning structures which cater to different kinds of personalized learning needs – Formal Stream, Flexible Stream and Easy Track. Easy Track at APL caters to the children with special educational needs in line with APL’s policy of inclusive education.
Mirra has been working closely with APL since 2011 on all aspects of inclusion. It works with the management on policies and resources needed to promote inclusion. It supports the Easy track and special education support needed for mainstream classes. It also works with the teachers on reaching out effectively to the special needs in the classroom. Mirra is also involved in the development of curriculum, teacher training and providing remedial support for children in the Special Needs Group.
Mirra also extends its support to train physical educators in equipping children with readiness in sports, physical agility and enhancing attention.
Ms Gita Jagan as a leader is a very right-based person, open to learning. This is integrated into every strand of APL and is visible in the way APL adapts in policy decision or in providing extended support to meet the needs of every child in the school.
Chettinad Hari Shree Vidyalayam and Chettinad Vidya Mandir
Chettinad Hari Shree Vidyalayam in Chennai and Chettinad Vidya Mandir in Karur cater to children from Pre-primary to Standard XII. The schools foster an intellectually challenging learning environment, comprehensive monitoring of students to enable early intervention when needed and provide extended opportunities, development of positive relationships between teachers and students and their peers, involvement of students in a wide range of leadership, sporting and cultural activities.
Mirra has been associated with these schools since December 2015. Mirra has been involved in setting up resource rooms and systems that include formats for profiling the children, IEP and recording formats.
Mirra has also been working on enhancing Pedagogy which involves working intensively with teachers, observing classes, providing feedback and conducting workshops. Workshops focus on promoting sensitivity, enhancing class organization skills and generating interactive wall space to promote and reinforce learning.
Parent counselling is also done for children who need additional support. Mirra also conducts parent workshops that aim at developing an understanding of child and supporting the child at home.
Christwood is a school that follows the ICSE curriculum. Located in Ponmar, Chennai, the school began in June 2016. “Christwood is committed to provide a warm inclusive environment in which all feel welcomed and valued.”
Mirra’s objective in supporting Christwood is to enable the school to practise effective inclusive education so that children with differences learn together. The support includes formulating a structured program for the children with needs in the school; providing ongoing staff training in the areas of team building, cooperative learning strategies and techniques and strategies to modify instruction; empower parents of children identified with special needs by conducting workshops for them periodically to ensure that the program followed at school is carried forward at home to ensure that everybody works towards a common goal.
HLC International is a school that follows the Cambridge curriculum. It is run by Vidhyotsahi Educational and Charitable Trust. Mrs Sudha Mahesh is the founder of the school and also its principal. HLC International has grades from Pre-kg until Grade 12. HLC's work is guided by a few key principles - Child-Centric Education, Diversity and Transparency.”
Mirra has been supporting HLC since July 2010. After a year of research on best practices in inclusion, Mirra facilitated the setting up of Elina - HLC's Resource Centre for special education and inclusion. The main objective of setting up Elina was to make learning accessible to all children. From 2011 to 2014 Mirra worked from within the system and at various levels with the management, the teaching and non-teaching staff, parents and the children to help set up a learning environment for the children with needs.
For effective implementation of the program, there are ongoing parent-teacher meetings and teacher-therapist meetings. At the end of every year, the impact and effectiveness of inclusion, on students as well as staff, is reviewed and the feedback received is used to recommend modifications and plan training for the staff. Awareness is constantly built in the neurotypical children in the mainstream classes to ensure that inclusion is made a reality. Parents are involved in the inclusion process through an opportunity to volunteer in classrooms to facilitate children with needs.
Ms Sudha Mahesh is an inspiring leader. She has been instrumental in infusing the spirit of inclusion in all at HLC. What makes HLC an amazing environment to promote inclusion is that it “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. The school wishes to encourage their students to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners.
Redwood and BVM group of schools
The association of Mirra with Redwood and BVM group of schools has been since 2013. Mirra supports these schools through on call school visits for assessments, provides strategies for supporting the assessed children in the classroom and also conducts workshops for teachers/parents on a need basis.
Tatva School, founded by IIM alumni -R Vidyalakshmi and Balasubramanian S currently caters to children from play group to Grade 3 ( 1 to 7 years). Tatva has chosen to be a certified Cambridge International school.
Mirra has been associated with Tatva Preschool since June 2013. In the first year, Mirra provided support through assessments and remedial sessions at Mirra. The relationship has gradually progressed to a complete partnership model.
The program for each child starts with the assessment which includes discussion with Parents and teachers and observing the child in the classroom. Post the assessment, Mirra provides a program to the teachers to promote effective learning of the child in the classroom. Meeting with parents are scheduled once a month to provide home program to the parents and subsequent follow up to understand the effectiveness of the program and the challenges faced, if any along with any alterations required to the home program.
In addition, Mirra conducts workshop once in 2 months for teachers and selected group of parents on understanding the child needs and supporting the child effectively both at school and home. Mirra has also supported in setting up play equipment and associated training to provide children with gross motor experiences and also meet the mild sensory needs of the children at school.
The key strength of Tatva is the open and proactive perspective of its Director and the child centric approach taken by the school. She actively participates in every meeting , workshop and discussions. She has also initiated the weekly study group among teachers to focus on various aspects of child development.
Vruksha Montessori, founded by Ms Jayashree Radhakrishnan and Ms Nandini Joshi, caters to children in Toddlers, pre-primary and Primary (Age group 2 – 10 years). Its pre-primary environment has been certified by Indian Montessori Centre. Vruksha has been registered with the Tamil Nadu Government up to fifth standard.
Mirra has started working with Vruksha Montessori since July 2014. Mirra supports Vruksha by observing the children, interacting with the teachers, providing strategies for assisting the children in the classroom and by referring to any outside support, if needed. Mirra has started a series of workshops for teachers once in two months to empower them to understand the process involved in development and learning. This is expected to enable the teachers to handle subtle difficulties and seek assistance only for children with intense needs. In addition, it would help the teachers ascertain through a CPL (current Performance Level), the strengths and the needs of a child.
WGS (White Field Global School) , Bangalore
Whitefield global school, a Chalasani Endeavour, runs from pre-primary to high school and follows CBSE pattern.
Mirra has been associated with WGS since 2012 . The program started with the assessment of the children followed by one-on-one support to enhance learning. Support was given exclusively in Reading and Math. For other needs such as communication, OT and perceptual skills, they were referred to appropriate professionals.
During initial interactions with the school and children, it was identified that 60% of the children with speech, communication delays was due to gaps in promoting language development and readiness in 3Rs . Hence, the first year of association with WGS was devoted in formulating a curriculum for pre primary (Nursery, KG1 and KG2). The pre primary teachers were trained on learning and teaching processes in the classroom for effective teaching of language, early math and reading. Once the foundation skills were established, the challenges in early primary was reduced.
Two teachers have been identified to provide remedials (22 children from class I to IV ) and to set up a structured remedial centre to handle the needs of this large school.
The management has given Mirra a free hand to bring about changes in the pedagogy in working towards preventing acquired difficulties in reading and writing.
Abhividhi- Fourth Meet 7th Oct 2015
The Abhividhi team met for the fourth session on 7th October 2015 at APL Global school. The welcome note was given by Ms Mallika Ganapathy of MIRRA. She welcomed the new participants, namely Seed Academy and Alpha to Omega Learning Centre. Ms Mallika made a quick recap of ‘ABHIVIDHI’ for the new comers. She also recalled the decisions made during the last Abhividhi meet and the meetings that happened in the past month where each group met individually (Capacity building, process documentation, research and resource development).
The capacity building team shared information on the training programs for capacity building of the various stakeholders in inclusion in the coming year. Ms Gita Jagan, Founder and Director of APL, welcomed the participants and expressed her pleasure in hosting such a gathering. She spoke about their plan to work with the managements of schools on Inclusion. She said that APL was committed to partner and support other schools and managements in the process of inclusion.
Ms Sulatha and Ms Lakshmi of Sankalp introduced to the audience the teacher training course that SANKALP is offering in 4 Modules. This course will aim at empowering teachers and trainers to handle an inclusive multiability class room. The module can be designed specific to each school. It can also be taken up as a whole program or as individual modules. Ms Sulatha spoke about the why and what of the course. She also spoke about Sankalp’s journey since inception.
Ms Mallika shared Mirra’s plan to conduct a training program for caretakers and Shadow teachers.
Ms Geetanjali Sarangan of Snehadhara, Bangalore, spoke about the certificate course in partnership with Mirra for teachers and special educators. Hridakasha is a 25-week part time course that will focus on understanding oneself and creative teaching strategies through Arts (theatre, songs, puppetry and visual Arts).
The registration for this course will open on 23rd October, 2015.
Ms Saritha of Mirra spoke about the action points from the Process Documentation team. She spoke about the importance and need for process documentation. She introduced two formats for recording – one for recording case studies of best practices in inclusion and the other for documentation of the process of inclusion. She also spoke about the availability of a team of volunteers to do the date collection if the school requires.
Research and resource development:
Ms Lakshmi Satish of Mirra shared the discussion of the Research and Resource development team with regard to developing a checklist for skills leading to pre-vocational training. This checklist will be available for use by any school or organization by January 2016. Ms Rajul Padmanabhan mentioned a curriculum that Vidyasagar had, which could be shared.
An important note that was discussed throughout the meeting was the need for seamless functioning between special educators and teachers. This would be a step towards making inclusion effective.
Ms Mallika spoke about the formation of the Core Abhividhi Team for purpose of giving direction to the movement, to serve as a body that takes decisions and for validation of processes as a recognized and registered body. Participants were requested to mail their interest in being part of the Core Team.
The ‘Thank you note’ was given by Lakshmi Satish.
Abhividhi- Third Meet 28th Feb 2015
The third Abhividhi meet was held at SRMC on 28 Feb 2015. The participants of the meet had a common vision of an inclusive world with a strong objective of realizing their vision in reality.
The meet began with an introductory address by Ms. Mallika Ganapathy, Director of Mirra Charitable Trust. Mallika explained that Abhividhi was neither a seminar, workshop nor a project of Mirra. It is a think tank and a movement to take inclusion to newer heights and involves a joint venture of primary stakeholders to promote inclusion along with continuous research to understand and facilitate inclusion. Mallika suggested formation of teams to work on three key areas for promoting inclusion – Process documentation, capacity building, and research and resource development. Each of these teams should discuss action plan to identify strategies, arrive at a timeline, connect and collaborate regularly.
The next speaker was founder of Vidya Sagar – Ms. Poonam Natarajan. She discussed on the resources available for inclusion. Each disability has a different requirement and it is not a one size that fits all. One of the critical success factor for inclusion would be to address the support systems needed by a mainstream school to become inclusive. Special schools need to support mainstream schools to make inclusion a success. There is a need to get the strategies and best practices from various research papers, bibliography on inclusive education, curriculum adaption manuals, checklists on inclusion, inclusive practices and activities. These resources need to be made better and more available. Inclusion is not possible unless there is a change in the culture of the school and classroom. The focus of schools should be on inclusion and underlying values and not just on marks. Every child is valuable and deserves the support of a mainstream school. Resource building should be encouraged from the grass root level through training the teachers. Some of the issues that we need to address would include abuse, bullying – how do the peers accept and support people with disability as part of their classrooms. We need to address how we could help our students to actually make friends.
Chennai, being a leader in inclusive education should use Abhividhi as a vehicle to take the message of inclusion across the country and needs to work both with government and private schools.
Ms. Raji Naveen, Vice Principal of HLC spoke on Capacity building in mainstream inclusive schools. She emphasized in the importance of capacity building for inclusion and creating a future consisting of trained professionals with the right attitude to take on inclusion. Inclusion is non-negotiable in HLC and it has permeated through their vision in fostering empathy. HLC has created an environment where there is lot of collaboration, children led activities and vertical grouping. Inclusion would begin from the school’s vision, design of classrooms and the type of children that the school takes in. She also discussed on the 6 primary stakeholders for advocating and fostering inclusive environment at HLC - School leaders, Faculty, Support staff, Students, Parents and the community. The role of each of these stakeholders is very important and crucial in taking inclusion to newer heights.
The next speaker, Mr Shashank – co-founder of V-Shesh, spoke on the importance of skill development and capacity building towards employment. Employers are anxious about unknowns in employing the disabled and would prefer getting an understanding of the risks involved, accommodation needed for a particular individual along with supporting data. By employing a few such employees, employers get the entire experience of inclusion without investing in any training for it and hence it works for the benefit of the majority. He also insisted on having the right perspective to employment be it in a restaurant or software development. Parents and teachers should recognize that it is important to work with a right employer than look at the area of employment.
The final speaker, Mr Nanda Kumar – a Senior educator with more than xx years of experience shared his thoughts and ideas on Process documentation. He indicated that it is better to start off with a Proof Of Concept (PoC) to understand why and how we are establishing. Processes work well if the bottom line is clear. 95% of indian schools run without a process or procedure manual. He suggested starting with a PoC for Abhividhi – A process manual that would be a dynamic document. The process manual could contain the following to begin with - Philosophy (vision, mission), Administration including Governance, Finance & Financial administration and Infrastructure.
This was followed by a group discussion where the participants were split into three teams to arrive at strategies for process documentation, capacity building and research and resource development. The teams presented their thoughts and it was decided that each of these groups would work further on the ideas presented.
The meeting ended with a vote of thanks from Ms. Lakshmi Satish, Director of Mirra.
Abhividhi- Second Meet 18th Oct 2014
The second inclusion meet - Abhividhi was held on 18th Oct 2014 at Vidyasagar. The meet was presided by Smt Rajul Padmanabhan from Vidyasagar. She started with the welcome address where she emphasised on sharing the ideas on how this group could go forward on inclusive education. She touched on the issues of systemic changes and evaluation for inclusive education. The focus of the meet was on understanding and handling behaviours in the classroom. The guest speakers were Smt Nirmala Pandit, Ms Padma Srinath and Smt Usha Ramakrishnan. Special education coordinators from two inclusive schools also spoke about their practices.
Smt Usha Ramakrishnan, chairperson of Vidyasagar, addressed the group on Emotional wellness. She clearly stated that learning doesn’t take place in isolation of children’s feelings. Being emotionally literate is as important as instruction in math and reading. She touched upon the various elements of the Emotional Wellness program. There has to be a paradigm shift – from interventions for individual concerns in emotional areas by specialists to preventive policy and practices for emotional wellness.
Mrs Nirmala Pandit, the next speaker, has been a pioneer in this field and has set up many resource centres. She delved into the challenges faced by teachers in handling ADD, ADHD children. Some of the factors that impact child development could be lack of play time, exercise, high expectations from a child, overexposure to gadgets, and nutrition level of a child. Many a time, the seating in the classroom and the lighting and ventilation impacts the response of a child in the classroom. She suggested that the teachers should observe the child when the child is getting distressed and try to understand the cause of the distress. The teachers should use positive feelings towards the child, be open to ask for help, talk to other teachers in a positive way. She suggested following a very systematic approach and not leaving things to chance. It is very important that the child feels accepted from all quarters, from the teacher and from the peers. She concluded by saying that following one’s intuition works the best as and strategies need to be adopted not just for this child but also for all children in the class.
Smt. Padma Srinath explored the issue of transition and pointed out that transition is not an easy process for anyone as it occupies cognitive space. We tend to accommodate it when we know what it is and what could be done. When a child is anxious, there is avoidance which is a natural and an inadvertent behaviour. It is important to identify which aspect of the social dimension that the child is not fitting into. The school should encourage the teachers to allow social setting of the classroom and deliver on the path of authentic academic learning. The teachers should work on the curriculum and not just the syllabus. There should be more play and safety sense should be incorporated during play. The teacher should be able to connect to every child and should always focus on meaningful engagement with every child.
Ms Ramalakshmi – The special education coordinator from HLC spoke on inclusion practices in HLC. HLC uses evidence based practices and data based intervention. She touched upon some of the issues and challenges faced such as staffing, training, effectiveness of related services such as psychiatry and medication. There are innumerable formats for assessment and the debate still continues on how much intervention is necessary and what all components of the intervention would a particular child need.
Ms Veronica – Spl educator in APL was the next speaker. APL includes children with all types of disabilities. The way APL handles inclusion was presented through two case studies.
This was followed by a video clip of a parent sharing her experiences.
A few questions were shared with the participants and the floor was opened up for discussion on these questions. Mrs. Rajul Padmanabhan moderated the discussion session. The suggestions included activity based learning, establishment of sensory c
orners, child specific curriculum, constant evaluation on the mode of delivery by the teacher, usage of social stories, where applicable.
The meet concluded with our national anthem and the following action items
- Specific workshop on strategies to manage behaviour
- Next meeting after Pongal with more schools being included
Abhividhi- First Meet 12th July 2014
Inclusion is a way of life – how do we get schools in Chennai to practice inclusion? This is by large the big question in all our minds and the focal point of the Inclusion Meet.
To start on a path that will lead to more and effective inclusion in Chennai schools, Mirra charitable trust (http://www.mirract.org) facilitated a discussion on July 12, 2014 ( the first of a series of such discussions) with heads of leading educational institutions in Chennai practising inclusion, practitioners from NGOs facilitating inclusion and parents of children who have undergone or are undergoing their journey with inclusion.
Mallika Ganapathy, Managing Director of Mirra, set the objective of the discussion and invited the heads of educational institutions and NGOs to share their thoughts on Inclusion and share what they do to facilitate the same.
The representatives of mainstream inclusive schools spoke of their methods in practicing inclusion, their success stories as well as challenges in inclusion which include teacher training (EQ), classroom management, curriculum adaptations, people and material resources, etc.
The representatives of the NGOs spoke on the need to help schools in mainstreaming by empowering parents and schools with the necessary knowledge and infrastructure, keeping the all-round development of the child in mind. Challenges mentioned included the resources necessary to follow up on inclusion in the mainstream school/university/society. Sneha, a parent, shared her experience with her child and how she worked with the various stakeholders to get her daughter into a mainstream school.
Siddharth GJ shared with the audience his journey in inclusion (school, college and workplace). His statement that his current success, his strength and confidence were largely due to his parents and teachers convinced us of why we had to take inclusion seriously. The key to this, as Siddharth pointed out, is to believe in the children – everything else would follow.
The focus of the second part of the meet was “how do we enable inclusion effectively”. Six groups consisting of representatives from schools, NGOs, specialists in the field such as psychologists, therapists and parents were given specific topics to brainstorm and share their thoughts on.
The suggestions that came out from the groups were broadly in terms of having the right philosophy and policy in place to promote inclusion at the government and school level and percolating it down to the teachers and students. Many of them agreed to the need of having therapists and special educators as part of the school. Regular training programs and study circles for all teachers, educators and therapists were also felt as being important.
Everyone agreed to the need for a collaborative ecosystem consisting of NGOs, schools, parents and experts in the field working together to achieve the goal of inclusion.
There was a request from Mirra to the participating organisation to think further on this matter and come up with an initiative/begin work before the next meet. It was decided to have this meeting three times a year. Mirra would be responsible to create a group ID and help select a name for this initiative based on suggestions by the participants. The date and venue of the next meet would be communicated.