If we give the best to the worst….. how will it be?

What if I take the child I most worry about, the one with the worst prognosis, and give her the best available?  One girl worried me the most. In a year and a half she has not learned any alphabet, numbers, colors, etc.  She has learned to manage and control a pencil and can now do beautiful handwriting, but has no idea what it is.  She has learned to draw.  She is a very good dancer; she can sing and act.  But she is also naive and trusting and would easily follow a stranger anywhere.  She has no sense of danger.  She has limited impulse control… and more.  It's not that anything she does is terrible, but it's hard to imagine her being independent in any way, or even socialized to manage in a combined family marriage.  She is a caretaker by nature — but she can be very stubborn.  The usual track for such a girl is to put her into "vocational training" either in sewing (she puts her clothes on inside out half the time) or beautician — a quick path to prostitution for the vulnerable.

She was in school with the others but couldn't keep up.  So she was moved to nursery in the hope she would learn as she "helped" the teacher. But she was restless and the school never knew where she was or what she was doing.  On paper she is nine years old but is probably about 12.  I moved her out of our classes and had her assisting our special educator with the little ones.  One day the teacher told her to write her name ten times.  She refused, and said, "If you make me do this I will cry and then Mummy will fire you."

There were times I really wished she were not here, that she had not been among the others — which of course made me feel guilty but also forced me to confront the problem of what to do. I asked myself what I would have done if she had been mine by birth or adoption.  In a snap, even a normal child can have a head injury, lose knowledge, memory, lose impulse control…. Yes, I could have been faced with raising such a child, and now I was.


Then last week I saw a news story about a special school for mentally disabled children.  It had a big focus on dance, music, theater — social adjustment –and rehabilitation.  It looked like a place full of resources, and I assumed it would be very expensive.  Like an epiphany, I suddenly thought, "what if I take my most worriesome child and give her the best?"  This looked like a place I'd send my "own" to.  I went on line and found more info, and called the number given, which turned out to be the founder.  The school is 20 years old.  We had a good conversation and he said to visit this week. 


Yesterday I took my trouble child to visit the school.  She was such a perfect young lady.  I was so proud.  She wants so much to go to school.  The others want her to go too.  There was a happy send-off when we left for the interview, with our teacher telling her to make sure she answered everything right.  In the car I assured her that this wasn't a school where you had to answer right and there were other children who had trouble learning.  And this is exactly what it is!  This was the first time I'd heard the term dyslexia here.  These are educators.  They know the territory.  They work with a variety of problems, autism, retardation… more.. but they speak the language of education in its broadest sense. 

The day was also a chance to see how much she has changed in a year.  She was so sweet and graceful.  She clearly was the better functioning of the children, but reached out to each one.  She is used to children with handicaps.  In one class we visited, she drew a fish, and then a flower.  In another class a girl was trying to write letters of the alphabet — kaw, the one letter she knows.  The school has a physiotherapy room, with treadmill, trampoline, stat. bicycle, which she sat on — and I took a picture.  Back home at rest time she sat with a circle of the others around her, telling about the school. 


This child could never have made it through the day, the interview, the visit, without the intense teaching and guidance she has received from one of our teachers.  Helping, socializing this child has been a mission on the part of a teacher who sees good in everyone but knows it takes some doing at times to get there, to get them to that good, to be able to see that good.  She has taught the girls meditation, and yoga, and also sitting up straight in class, keeping hands on desk, asking to leave or enter the class — she is strict about handwriting.  These are all reasons I am happy to have her here.  At times the girls didn't like her, her discipline, strictness.  I told them this was life — that some teachers you like and some you don't — but you have to do the work.  They also threatened her that I'd fire her, which they have tried with everyone (it's never happened).  But I set up a system so that every time a girl complained about a teacher, the teacher got a ten rupee bonus.  

The major obstacle to this school is the distance, but having decided it was what I wanted for her, I looked for solutions.  For now actually, this teacher will take her every morning by public transportation.  This will be a chance for more learning, for learning how to behave on buses, how to cross streets, how to deal with peeking eyes and wandering hands.  Most important it will be a chance for talk about the past, about the change in her life from being on the street watching buses and autos to being on the bus, riding in the auto.  "What does she think about when she sees a child on the street, or a mother and child on the sidewalk, or beggars reaching in the windows?"


Shishur Sevay is about learning, about learning by the children, learning by us — I think about this girl.  How many people walked past her and did not see her, did not help her?  She doesn't remember where she is from or the names of her family.  Now she has us, and this is the question:  What happens if we give the best to the child who is the worst?   We will learn.  But it's not just about outcome.  Everyone here is excited!  Everyone is filled with hope because we are not abandoning or giving up on the child who is so difficult.  "Mummy is sending her to a good school!!!!"  Shishur Sevay is also about hope, which at times can be contagious.




1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. K.
    Sep 13, 2008 @ 08:11:10

    Michelle, really happy to hear about this development about her. Wish her all the best! How is her pal, P, doing?


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September 2008
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