Adulthood is the longest span of life with possibilities of living a fuller life. The complete lack of services and opportunities prompted Muskaan to work with adults with intellectual challenge. At Muskaan we believe that each and every person can learn if they are facilitated with right kind of learning environment and humane approach
Muskaan started its adult training program in 1989 when even this concept was non-existent. Our faith in human learning potential prompted us to experiment with various vocational training programs over the years. We understood their strength in concrete thinking and chose simple vocational skills.
Our training programs can be divided into five major categories
Training in each area is extremely important for the holistic development of the person.
Each of these programs contributes to varied aspects of the development of a student. Life skill program facilitates adaptive functioning, computer technology makes conceptual learning interesting, art & craft provides for creative self expression & emotional well being, sports etc. for health & physical fitness and vocational skills enhance their productivity. These programs play a crucial role in cognitive, social, emotional and skill development. It also makes a person more adaptable and emotionally stable.
To impart the training there are several kind of vocational training options are available for the students in different categories
Age criterion – 16-35 yrs: Requests for admissions are registered throughout the year. All those parents who registered with us in the current year are informed through mail about an Orientation meeting. In this meeting the parents are informed about different programs of Muskaan and process of admission. All the parents who attend the meeting are given dates for the assessment for their wards. Admission process involves an interview with the parents/ families/care takers to get the information related to functioning level, needs and strengths of the person and expectations of parents. A functional assessment in different areas of development of the candidate is done during an observation period of two weeks. After this the team of special educators and psychologist decides on the kind of services/ program that can be offered by Muskaan to the person and his family.
Training in work related vocational skills have to culminate in work/employment opportunities which are extremely meager for adults with intellectual disability. Muskaan recognized the critical role that work opportunities can play in enhancing the quality of life, and with constant efforts, we have been able to find work opportunities for adults with varied levels of disability ranging from severe to mild.
Our experience has shown possibility of their employment through threefold avenue:
Well defined criteria have been developed by Muskaan for placement into each of the above options, once the trainee is sufficiently prepared for employment. For majority of adults with intellectual disability (almost 60%) the Supported Employment Centres are more viable option due to various reasons e.g. family resources and adaptation skills of the person.
Adults with high support needs also need placement and Muskaan has evolved an effective model for their placements also. An Activity cum Art centre, evolved after 8 years of experimentation at Muskaan, provides a variety of very simple vocational activity, life skill activities, art & craft and recreational activities enabling them to have a structured learning and enjoyable routine
Supported Employment within Muskaan
Muskaan has the privilege of being chosen as a training partner by Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment for skill training and employment generation for young adults with intellectual disability.
Our first ever initiative for Employment was taken in 1995 with creation of a Supported Employment centre within Muskaan. We started with a batch of 10 persons and today we have 50 young adults working in this centre and many of them have also moved out for jobs in mainstream world. For them it is a life-changing experience as earning raises their self-worth and they enjoy putting their skill to use. For us, who work with them, it is a great experience in diversity.
We strongly believe that gainful employment transforms lives. Young men and women work hard every day, to make an impressive range of products of the highest quality, at our employment centre. The products are marketed to retail clients and bulk orders are taken from various organizations. When people see the products created by our production associates, they recognize the capacities of our people.
Supported Mainstream Employment
Society’s ignorance about persons with intellectual disability created a barrier for open employment. We have been successful in breaking this barrier as our work associates have gained employment with corporate in past few years. Some of our higher functioning trainees have taken up jobs in open market, proving to be diligent, conscientious employees. Integration with mainstream workplaces enables them to realize their true potential. Employers who appreciate their skills and bring a humane approach to their needs, make this dream a reality. Between 10-15% of young adults with ID can be successfully employed in mainstream world.
Special employment in Activity cum art centre of Muskaan
Approximately 15-20% of young adults with ID have high support needs. They also need placement and Muskaan has evolved an effective model for their placements also. An Activity cum Art centre, evolved after 8 years of experimentation at Muskaan, provides a variety of very simple vocational activity, life skill activities, art & craft and recreational activities enabling them to have a structured learning and enjoyable routine.
Very early into our existence, we realised that educating the family members is not only our biggest hurdle but also the biggest step in integrating our associates with the mainstream. Very often a parent burdened with grief, sadness and guilt, cannot fulfil the need of an intellectually disabled child. The needs can range from physical assistance to emotional nurturing.
To begin with, we help the family accept and understand the nature of the disability, its impact on the person as well on the other family members. Our counsellors are available every Thursday, with prior appointment, to sit with families and address their concerns and queries. We facilitate the process of obtaining disability certificate, legal guardianship and other benefits of the government schemes. Our counsellors also join the medical staff at AIIMS to help parents avail disability certificates and provide guidance and counselling.
Another endeavour which helps parents are support groups, where they meet other families and learn that their problems are not unique. We help them to develop an appropriate social life to fulfil a psychological and emotional need and at the same time make our students aware of their responsibilities and rights, as it is easy for others to take advantage of them. We work with families to build communication skills, decision making abilities, emotional well-being and utilising leisure time and self-care.
The role of a family is extremely important. A child with intellectual disability will shine if the family focuses on strengths and successes and effort is made to work on ‘difficulties’. Some areas like self-care, appropriate social life, decision making, and awareness of their duties, do need more attention than others but that can be provided over time with love.
An effective partnership between parents and teachers means both have realistic demands and expectations from each other. It is a must for the parents of our work associates to join a short training programme. IGNOU had chosen Muskaan as a study centre for this programme.
When a child is diagnosed with intellectual disability, the entire family feels the stress and burden, not only because they have to meet special needs of the child, but also because it creates lot of emotional complexes and pessimism. Meeting other parents facing similar challenges makes them realise that their problems aren’t unique. They learn that together they can create better opportunities benefitting their children.
Under Muskaan’s aegis, some of these parent organisations have become active lobbyists and are fighting for educational, recreational, and vocational services. Undoubtedly, their mission was difficult and they faced many challenges but united they have power and hope.
At Muskaan the parents’ organisation eases the way to procure various certificates from the government, for the benefit of people with intellectual disability.
1. Appropriate Social Life:All of us depend on others for our various psychological, emotional and financial needs. A very important aspect of our adult lives is to be able to build and maintain a relationship. Our work associates are no different, they have the same needs and demands. So, we help them develop skills to lead a smooth life. They need to feel a sense of achievement and competence to relate with people and build friendship. For adults, working out responsible roles, dealing with sexuality and building relationships becomes more challenging.
2. Awareness of their Duties and rights: The family does not make them aware of their rights and duties, no one will. To enforce and exercise our rights and perform all our duties, we need to be aware of the rights and duties. It is no different for persons with intellectual disabilities. They have the same rights and duties as everybody else, but because they need support, other adults often take even the smallest of decisions for them.
Muskaan, therefore raises awareness among people with intellectual disability and among the public at large regarding the rights and duties of adults with intellectual disability. It is important that the people around them (family members, legal representatives, friends, co-workers, etc.) respect their will and take it into account. Crucially, therefore, persons with intellectual disabilities must have a chance to convey what they want, how they feel and what they believe to be important.
3. Communication Skills: Major emphasis is laid on this, especially, for persons using non-verbal mode of communication and people with unclear speech. They have to be given a system of communication which is easily understood by majority. Simultaneously, future guardians have to be trained.
4. Decision Making:Whatever may be the form or extent of dependence on others, our work associates are equipped with the skill to take, at least some, of the decisions themselves. It starts with small things like asking them their likes and dislikes in food and what clothes they would like to wear. Then it goes on to more complex decisions – would they like to meet certain people or take part in some activities.
5. Emotional Support:The family has to work as unit to eliminate certain widespread misconceptions like people with intellectual disabilities always remain children, they are stubborn, aggressive, cannot understand what we are telling them, cannot control their impulses or be self-disciplined and self-regulated.
Like any adult, unconditional love and acceptance, approval and appreciation is critical for people with intellectual disability. A constant reminder of their failures not only kills their initiative for learning but also builds resistance towards learning. In some cases where parents have non-accepting attitudes or there is a lack of positive experiences, the student’s self-image suffers a severe blow, causing many emotional and behavioural difficulties.
They also have to be taught how to recognise their emotions and mental state and how to relate good and bad with one’s feelings as well as others’ feelings. When we take the time to explain, they understand the “why” of expected behaviours and consequence of “bad” behaviour.
6. Leisure Time:If working is an important outlet of self-expression then an opportunity to unwind is equally important. Active involvement in recreational activities like physical fitness, creative mediums, and movies etc. enhance their interpersonal skills which leads to a well-rounded individual. Therefore, appropriate skills need to be imparted for managing free time otherwise it can lead to disruptive behaviour.
7. Self-Care:It is our aim, as far as possible, that our work associates look after their daily needs including proper hygiene. The starting point is identification of the body and its parts. It progresses to appropriate and structured training and then looking after their needs without help. They have to know how to protect themselves not only from physical dangers like fire, electricity, road traffic etc. but also from abuse by other human beings. This can be encouraged by developing a sense of privacy once they start identifying family, home, institute, teacher, room, one’s belongings etc.
The sector of Intellectual Disability needs to do great deal of awareness & advocacy because the society including government is not aware of the lack of services, opportunities required for development of children and adult with ID Muskaan is very actively highlighting the capabilities of person with intellectual disability showcasing the successful model of training and employment
It is not an exaggeration to say that much of impoverishment of people with intellectual disability arises from lack of awareness in the society about their capacities and growth potential. We at Muskaan firmly believe in their rights for education, employment, participation in social and recreational facilities, building friendships and self-dignity. We work towards dismantling attitudinal barriers of the larger society including families by showing them the success and accomplishments of intellectually challenged persons.
We respect and recognize their humanness, as they are pure and simple people with immense capacity for love and happiness. They are misunderstood and marginalized and that is disturbing to us, though it motivates us to work for their rights as citizens of our country.
Parents, teachers and the society play crucial role in our development. It becomes even more important for children and adults with intellectual disability. Our work remains incomplete if parents and the society fail to participate in this process. Thus creating awareness and advocating for their rights becomes an important area of our work.
Several media are used to create awareness about the rights of people with intellectual disability. Muskaan team makes presentation in different schools, colleges, offices etc. along with sale of its products. Marketing of Muskaan products, made by our trainees in our Supported employment centre has made immense contribution in raising awareness about the capabilities of persons with intellectual disability in the society
Various educational institutions and corporate sector visit Muskaan and see the work that our trainees are doing. Students from prestigious universities and management institutes join Muskaan to do their internship.
Several events e.g. marathon, seminars and cultural events are regularly done.
Muskaan has played very important role in doing advocacy with the Govt., namely Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and National Trust to secure the rights of persons with intellectual disability through education, early intervention, training & employment and safe and quality life after parents’ demise.
Muskaan, represented by Dr. Shanti Auluck is part of Sector Skill Council for persons with disability and also selection committee of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment Govt. of India. We have participated actively with Disability Rights Group, a cross disability network, for the development of RPD Act 2016 and Right to Education Act 2009. Besides, Muskaan has played important role in several expert committees formed by the Govt. to guide its policy and decisions e.g. Asha Kiran, planning commission, NCERT, RCI, National Trust etc.
Advocacy requires that we inform ourselves about the following:
An aware and sensitised society can reduce the struggles of people with intellectual disability and their families. Moreover, families need to know the rights of their child e.g. “Right to Education” and other legal rights enshrined in PWD Act 1995.
Awareness about rights and legislation is particularly lacking in the field of intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Perhaps parents, families and professionals are more involved in managing services or their personal challenges arising from lack of services. Small efforts here and there are not enough. A concerted effort by groups of people on a constant basis is the need of the hour. It is essential for families to keep themselves informed about their child’s rights and understand what it takes to be an effective guardian. Good NGOs have created enough successful service models. Advocacy with the government will scale up services to reach majority of our population.
Some of the legislation and their links are given below:
URCPD – United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
It is not only a Rights based legislation, but has the potential to change our understanding of disability. Salient rights of persons with disability in UNCRPDare –
The foundation of Muskaan’s successful training centre and employment centre lies in experimentation. We tried various activities and chose only those that suited our work associates.
Over time two things happened. We realised that this is a workable model and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. So we started motivating NGOs and parent groups to start a centre like this with Muskaan providing the blueprint.
Simultaneously, as the word spread, NGOs from across the country came to study the vocational training model and asked for ways to set it up in their own organisations. We worked with them. They came to our centre and we went to theirs to examine the possibilities. Over the last 6-7 years we have worked with schools having a wing for children with special needs, NGOs that work with small kids but want to work with adults too, and organisations who work with people with intellectual disability in Delhi.
There is a definite need for a training model, so that teachers can be trained and curriculum developed. So we have designed a module that can be flexible. In addition to this whenever we have an in-house training or workshop, we invite others to attend too.
In a unique initiative, Muskaan in partnership with National Trust (a statutory body constituted by Govt. of India for taking care of the needs of people with Autism, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability & multiple disabilities) has developed a residential facility for adults with intellectual disabilities. Located in south Delhi, our model of residential facility moves away from ‘care model’ to an empowering model of ‘Assisted living’. Muskaan has endeavoured to create a residential facility that could set an example showing the possibility and practicality of the model where residents are participants in running the home. The journey of establishing this facility was arduous but it reconfirmed our faith in the capabilities and sense of responsibility of adults with ID.
The need for a residential facility for people with disabilities can be hardly overemphasized, they need support and supervision throughout their lives, particularly when parents are old, sick or pass away. The challenge is to conceptualize and create good models of assisted living that recognize not only the basic survival needs but also a whole range of other personal, social and psychological needs for fulfilled lives.