When Nidhi* (14) first came to Rafa Home eight years ago, she seemed severely impaired: A rare condition of Tuberculosis in her brain had left her vulnerable to epileptic seizures.We were fairly certain she could hear, but she was effectively mute, making only small grunts and sounds.She showed a mischievous side: Sometimes she would hide quietly behind the curtains in the middle of the night, and simply wait.The first few times carers awoke and found her bed empty, they searched frantically, worried that she had come to harm—only to have her suddenly jump out from the curtains, making a silly face!
Over the years, we have seen her grow in mobility and responding to carers in the limited ways she could communicate. Still, she requires help with most things, including eating and going to the toilet. She had been enrolled in a school for the differently abled, but was struggling to engage with her teachers or other students, and we sensed that she needed a change.
During Covid wave-2 lockdown, we connected to a new school which specializes in autism. The teachers there are trained to look beyond a person’s “diagnosis” and to identify the unique interventions and creative methods that work for that particular student. Almost immediately after Nidhi began online one-on-one sessions with teachers from her new school, we saw newfound enthusiasm for learning.
Nidhi’s teachers use a variety of approaches such as a ‘cooking class’ and ‘experiment time’. They aim to improve her communication and motor skills, with help of flash cards and objects, helping her strengthen her memory of events and spaces.Her activities also include imitation, taking things from one place to another, and even the joy of making lemonade.
Nidhi now engages well with her online classes. She can now recognize many objects, including her brush and toothpaste. Her motor skills are improving. Earlier she was restless and would cause a disturbance in the home when other girls were trying to enjoy movie-time, but now she loves sitting with them. She is more cooperative and expressive with the carers throughout the day. In the evenings, she often tugs their hands, indicating that she wants to go outside to walk or play—yet another change from before.
In late 2021, when lockdowns had ended and Covid numbers went low enough in the city, Nidhi’s online teachers made a special trip far across town to come visit her in person.They brought gifts and special foods for Nidhi and the other girls.Nidhi was thrilled to give them a tour of her home and was simply beaming with smiles the whole time!
It's just great to see Nidhi grow in her abilities.. we're thankful to all involved in her story.
*pseudonym. As per CWC guidelines we do not reveal names of our children.