More schools for Muscular Dystrophy kids

"Indian Express" dated 11th July 2011

CHENNAI: A special school for children affected by Muscular Dystrophy has proved to be a ray of hope for parents. The school is operated by the Corporation of Chennai with the support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and enrollment has increased steadily in the two years since it opened. This has prompted the civic body to look into the possibility of opening more such schools. The story of the school is sweet success indeed for Dr V Viswanathan, a pediatrician and child neurologist, who has been pushing for a cure to Muscular Dystrophy for almost 15 years. He came up with the idea of a school to create a favorable environment for kids affected by the condition.

"Muscular Dystrophy renders some children unable to walk or even stand. But their brain functions like any other child. Though they might be able to cope, a normal school is generally unfriendly to their movement," says Viswanathan.He adds that because of their immobility, children with Muscular Dystrophy often have little exposure to the outside world. These children could need some special attention, and this school also provides that.

The special school for children with Muscular Dystrophy, which is located on the aptly named Model School Road in Thousands Lights, will be among the highlights at MYOCON, an international conference on Muscular Dystrophy, which is slated to be held in Chennai in January 2012. The school provides an option for parents of children affected by the condition, to go to school, instead of just staying at home. The school is now a second home to as many as 40 children with Muscular Dystrophy.

In fact, some parents have removed their children from normal schools to send them here. "My son, Hariprabhu, used to go to a normal school. He is good at academics, but then, this school is specially meant for children like him. So we brought him here, and he has been enrolled since the day this school was begun," says M Gnanasundari, who comes to the school with her son every day, from Ayanavaram.

The school operates with two Chennai School teachers who have been posted here from the start. Though the effort required to deal with children with special needs may be more, it is worth every bit, says N Gomathi, one of the teachers. "Well, the hours are shorter, it isn't a great deal. Most importantly, it is extremely satisfying for me to see these children smile. I remember how each one of them was when they joined us," she says. Gomathi recalls an accident her young son met with a few years ago, as a source of inspiration for her to carry on. "My son's leg was broken and he was bedridden for three months. That's when I realized what the parents of children with Muscular Dystrophy must be going through. At least I could look at my son, sure that he would walk again once his leg healed. These parents don't have that privilege," she says.

Support from political office bearers and officials has been the wind beneath the wings of the project, says Dr Viswanathan. And the concern of those in establishment is apparent.

The Mayor was abreast of what was happening at the school. "The response has been excellent. But since children are often immobile, travelling long distances to come to the school is proving to be a problem. At present, a van goes around to pick up the kids, but we are unable to cover every corner of the city. So we are considering opening two similar schools, one each in North and South Chennai," said Mayor M Subramanian.

This is being welcomed by the parents. "It will be easier for other parents to send their children to these schools. It will be of great use," said a parent.

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