Until the release of Bollywood blockbuster Taare Zameen Par, most Indians were oblivious to the existence of a learning disability called Dyslexia. Now, when people are aware of it, they offer sympathy instead of encouragement! But that’s what trained counselor Mallika Venkhatramani firmly opposes-
“They are not exhibition show pieces for people to gawk at.”
Success tales are many in this world. Although Albert Einstein had a super-high IQ of 160 he was dyslexic too. Yet he was a note-worthy contributor to the society and the world of science. Learning disability has no total limitations; it’s a problem that has a solution.
In a move to encourage children with learning disabilities, the Soroptimist Club of Chennai conducted its Annual Interschool Talent Contest on 16th July, 2016. The day-long event kick-started at 9.30 A.M and concluded at 3.30 P.M in Little Peepal School, Anna Nagar. The Interschool Talent Competition is sponsored by shipping company ABS Marine Services. Apart from Soroptimist, the Association of Inner Wheel Club Chennai has also been actively helping out in organizing the event for the last 2 years.
What one sees here is an uncanny enthusiasm among all the participants and a vibrant display of talent. Maybe that’s what keeps the judges coming back year after year.
Every competition in this event has a purpose to serve. The singing contest was introduced since music is an important part of a special child’s remediation; skit and oratory was added on the list to meet the much-felt need of building stage confidence. Ad zap was introduced to encourage spontaneity of thought and action. The highlight edition this year was the handwriting competition as Mallika felt the role of having a neat and legible handwriting is often underplayed by all children.
In fact even the topics are carefully designed to ensure the acquisition of essential knowledge. Some of the topic areas include- Social awareness, Environment, issues special children could face and some issues they must face.
While all the participants have their eyes on bagging prize; the organizers aim to bring the best out of every special child. The learning process leads to the discovery of the special children’s true untapped potential, revealing a part of them which was otherwise unknown to most. After participating, they would have conquered stage fear and built self-confidence. That’s when the organizers from Soroptomist win.
Preparations and More
Mallika says, “We make it very clear that here participation is what is important,” Being a meticulous planner, Mallika Venkhatramani pulls up her socks two months before the actual event to plan the course of action. Soon as the schools re-open in June an information notice of the competition is communicated to them. This leaves the school with a solid one-month time for preparation. After seeing some fabulous pieces of painting and some splendid acting skills, one can conclude that there’s no shortage of talent. There’s only a shortage of similar platforms to encourage such budding artists and actors.
Ups and Downs
What comes as an unexpected surprise is the mature way participants handle the ups and downs as Mallika says, “In fact, they (special children) handle not winning a competition so much better. Because I have been to regular school competitions where there have been melt downs when the child doesn’t win. You don’t get that kind of stuff here…”
Insensitive Adults & Need for Change
“The major change we need is an attitude change.”
Looking beyond the fair and square competition, Mallika expresses her dismay- “It is only the Education system that is very unforgiving.”
Mallika states “The major change we need is an attitude change.” This goes in tune with highly- insensitive comments most adults pass. She further adds, “They have no business of making judgments,” While turning 18 people proudly self-brand themselves as mature adults, a thought-provoking question here is- How mature are such adults who fail to sensitize at delicate places?
Since charity begins at home, we Indians collectively need to sow the seeds of change within us. Introspect and recall all those moments you raised a brow and doubted dyslexic children, all those times you underestimated a special child and every single time you endorsed a thick-skin and passed callous comments. While you do that, remember- people who shine from within don’t need the spotlight!
(Additional inputs from Shobha Hebbar)