Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Kartik Learns To Talk
A few days ago I met Nisha on the road. Nisha is Gia's Mom, whose story I shared back in October. Gia has a little brother named Kartik, and I told his story a few weeks later.
Gia was worried about Kartik because at the age of two and a half, he still wasn't talking. We got him into Karuna Vihar for an assessment and the diagnosis was simply that he needed more stimulation, more time with other children, more communication. The prescription? Two hours every day at Latika Vihar, our inclusive children's center.
When I met Nisha, Kartik had been coming to Latika for about six weeks. So I wasn't expecting much. These things take time.
But Nisha leaped off the bike, her face alight, and said "He's started talking! He says Mama, Didi, chai, and roti now. What did you do? It's like magic."
What did we do? Time to go to Latika Vihar and find out.
I found Kartik being looked after by Pooja, our special educator. In spite of having seven other children to care for, she managed to stay aware of what he was doing and what he might need.
When Kartik first arrived, she told me, he would sit quietly on his own, only truly secure when Gia was in sight. Gradually, with her help, he ventured further out to see what other children were doing, eventually deciding it was more fun to play the way the other kids did.
Parallel play is an important step in a child's development. Kids are totally absorbed in their own thing, but still like the idea of another child nearby. Kartik was right on time - almost three, he was doing just what he should have been doing.
But Pooja knew he would need help moving towards a more interactive style of play, a style where turn-taking, sharing and communication became more important.
So she helped him test the waters and guided him as he took the first steps toward being with other children.
At first, he was hesitant - needing her almost constant presence:
Gradually, he gained confidence, learning that he could still be safe, even without her right beside him:
But the real breakthrough came when Kartik realized that other children could be trusted too:
and that the sweetness of a friend's support is what will take you through even the most difficult challenges:
Kartik still has a way to go, but his resilience, Nisha and Gia's devotion and Pooja's skill will get him through.
As for me, I just can't stop thinking about luck and narrow escapes. How many more Kartiks are there out there? How can we reach them? When it is so simple to help them find their voices, how can we allow ourselves to fail?