Today our own Dr Sebastian described for us his new approach to assessing children at Karuna Vihar. In addition to all the usual things he has always looked at, he's added one special twist: he asks parents what their dreams are for their child. What are they planning? What do they hope for? How do they see that child in ten years?
It's radical in so many ways.
It helps parents begin to see the need to think long-term, to plan realistically, to accept in concrete ways the special needs their child will always have. But it also helps us as we work with families to achieve those dreams. If part of a child's file contains "Parents dream he will one day manage a corner shop" or "Parents believe she can be a chef's assistant," we, too, work differently.
We've got a goal. We may need to adjust it as we go, as the child him or herself grows up and begins expressing his/her own dreams, or as reality points out the flaws in our planning, but at least we've got something to work toward.
At the Latika Vihar picnic yesterday, I was struck, as I so often am, by the vibrancy of our children, by their curiosity and wonder and eagerness to live, to learn, to grow and achieve. And as I listened to Dr Sebastian this afternoon, I thought about those children and their dreams. Is anyone asking them what they want, what they hope for, what they aspire to?
This child captures it all for me. I have watched her change from a shy, worried little "old soul," burdened beyond her years with responsibilities and limits, to the glorious free spirit pictured here - chiefly because of Latika Vihar and the freedom and opportunities she has experienced here. But what does her future hold? What are her dreams and can we really help her fulfill them when everything - the family she was born into, the school she attends, the system she is growing up in - says she has no right to those dreams?
I look at this glorious child, alive with promise and possibility, with everything before her and no earthly reason to fail, and I wonder what in in the name of all that is holy we are doing to her and to her friends.
And I wonder what answer we will give when we have to explain ourselves to her Creator, when we have to make excuses for trampling on her dreams . . .