“The Corona pandemic has taught us that we need to utilize all possible sources of imparting skills. It also reiterated that parents and siblings can be the best teachers if we can build their capacities.”
Children all around the world have moved online to continue their education. Every morning is filled with alarms ringing, somehow making it to the online classroom and getting their minds ready to learn while staying home. Since the pandemic the education world has been revamped overnight into this futuristic possibility that everyone has found themselves in. So when the students with deafblindness couldn’t go to their centres to learn, the educators trained by Sense International India took that futuristic possibility and went ahead with their teaching.
Technology played an important part in bridging the gap between the educators and the children. Involving parents in this lockdown was essential to fulfil the educational priorities of the child. The educators and staff at Sense International India jumped into action “We have prepared timetables to be followed by parents & educators. Started virtual training for the coordinators & educators to be able to implement the same using timetable through call/videos to the parents (as parents have to be engaged with their own child)” said Srinivasan.P, Manager, Training. Parents and siblings became an important resource in engaging and teaching deafblind children and adults. Mr. Paul who understood this new learning source said, “The Corona pandemic has taught us that we need to utilize all possible sources of imparting skills. It also reiterated that parents and siblings can be the best teachers if we can build their capacities.”
Unlike the pandemic, there was a novel bond that was created. “We included the parents in making sure that the child is set onto a schedule and that the personalized goals that were set for each child is still reachable with the things available at home and the parents are involved in goal achieving.” said Krupa Bharat Velani, Project Manager at the Blind People’s Association, a partner organization of Sense International India in Ahmedabad, who has been a special educator for the past 20 years. Understanding that parents would rely on the educator’s guidance more than the child Mrs. Velani said, “The parents are dependent on us to make the child as independent as possible. With the lockdown that onus has now invariably shifted to the parents as we can’t reach them and them us. Some parents are not reciprocating the need of the child, some are not digitally savvy, but it has been an eye opening scenario for most parents and has made them open to the educators and are taking an active interest in the child’s education and independence.” There are WhatsApp groups of educators and parents who keep each other on toes by exchanging schedules, photos and videos of their children doing an activity and reaching the set goals together. Seeing such a robust community made as a product of the pandemic Mrs. Velani said, “The parents are sharing videos of their children doing an activity and that motivated other parents to do the same. Some parents are taking an avid interest in coming up with activities to do.” The pressure has shifted to the parents and it has become stressful for them to communicate with the children 24*7 and that’s when the educators come in again. “There has been an increased level of trust in the educator by the parents. When it gets stressful the educator talks to the parents. The educator video calls the family in their set schedule and guides them in the activities and for those who cannot be reached via video call we do a normal phone call” said Mrs.Velani.
Shifting educational responsibilities to parents was difficult as every child with deafblindness has different needs. Sense International India started an online course for parents where they could learn to communicate with their child and aid in the activities. “Currently 10 parents are enrolled & are attending each & every lecture as per the timetable even out of their busy schedule. They have gained knowledge on developing, understanding and ways to improve their child with Deafblindness in their day to day life.” said Mr. Srinivasan.P.
With everything positive that has been brought out in this pandemic, everyone wishes to go back to how things were. Mr Srinivasan.P said, “ We wish to continue working in the normal ways as we have been always doing. But taking this current situation as an example, we will continue to work & find better ways to continue the services even with the same or worse situation so that it doesn't affect/hinder the lives of PwDbness.” Mrs.Velani said, “The lessons we learned in this lockdown have changed our teaching methods and will be very helpful for future special educators. The connection established with the parents has never been stronger than now.”