Meet Kavitha George. A special mum, wife, daughter, counsellor, therapist and, entrepreneur who is passionate about equal opportunity in education for children with special needs. She is a certified Personal Counsellor with numerous internationally acclaimed certifications. She currently lives in Mumbai with her husband and three children, of which, one is a special child. Kavitha describes herself the best, saying, "I look at the blue skies and not on the picket fences.” She believes that life is too beautiful to bear grudges and dwell on shattered dreams.
Kavitha is a social entrepreneur. She founded, Communicare, her brainchild, with the mission of creatively opening the minds of the children with special needs by using the best global practices so that the children reach their fullest potential and to help their families in their journey.
Communicare’s first school is opening in Powai, Mumbai. The centre was due to start on 23rd March 2020, but they could not commence operations due to the lockdown. They will now be operational in Powai as soon as the government passes the order to reopen schools. Other centres in Mumbai will start in the next couple of months. They also do work in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Their training programs are in collaboration with the College of Allied Educators, Singapore where all the courses are recognised by the Ministry of Education, Singapore.
Here are excerpts from my interview with Kavitha...
What’s your story?
So, while I was in a cushy environment while growing up, the real story began in 2009 with the birth of my second daughter and she transformed me. She actually gave birth to a new me. While I was sure something was wrong, when she was born, I was just not prepared for what was coming my way. I could have been a bystander or I could have made a way when there seemed to be no way. This was a whole new 'Special World' that I jumped into, for my daughter's sake. Initially, I had to face rejection, anger and confusion, and then that changed to understanding, learning, practicing, and implementing with her, immerse myself and her into different experiences with the hope of a new tomorrow and this also ensured that the journey was different every day. The task was huge but what kept me motivated is to see the improvement albeit slowly in her.
However, somewhere along the way, I discovered my purpose when I understood that my experience and learnings could actually help many parents who were groping in the dark and running from one therapist to another. And that is when I decided to work in the area of special needs to make a change in the life of every child, every family. At the same time, working towards ensuring that these children get a right to equal opportunity in education.
My story is still unfolding. Given that I look forward and never the past, I believe that every day is an opportunity to start again. Life may throw curveballs but you have to roll with the punches.
What exactly is Inclusive Education and why is it necessary?
Inclusive education is when the program or curriculum is child-centric. Inclusive education is about ensuring access to quality education for all students by effectively meeting their diverse needs in a way that is responsive, accepting, respectful and supportive. Students are given equal opportunity for learning and participation in a common learning environment with support to diminish barriers and obstacles. It creates a sense of belonging and is a step ahead and above for creating a sensitive and inclusive ecosystem.
What’s your goal with this programme?
Our goal is to make inclusive education a reality by early diagnoses, intensive and consistent intervention making the children ready, thereby, defining their future learning path. Our goal is also to provide trained resources and support to mainstream schools and work together in making this change. We have robust training programs for parents, caregivers, and educators.
What’s it like bringing a real-world change? Do you think you would empathize as much if it wasn’t for your daughter?
Real-world change starts with your first leap. Your decision to do something about anything that moves you and stays with you. It takes patience and perseverance along with hard work and authenticity. If you have these, nothing can stop you from your goal.
There is a saying, ‘Circumstances maketh the man’. All the events, people and situations cross your path to help you understand and define your reason to be on this earth. Some float through life in search of that purpose and some, through situations and life-defining incidents, discover it. I guess also being spiritual helped me recognise my purpose after my daughter was born.
To answer if I would have been as passionate if it weren’t for my daughter, I am sure I would have empathised though not get behind it just as much, because I am very fond of children and I also work for many other social causes.
In times of distress, how do you wear a brave face, especially around family?
During times of distress, I don’t wear a brave face. I speak to my immediate family (my husband and my eldest daughter) about whatever is stressing me. I believe that nothing happens without the knowledge of God and my faith has always kept me looking at the brighter side of every situation.
What are the challenges you’ve had to face?
There are Psychological and sociological challenges faced by parents of special children. And when I talk about myself, there have been many and at various levels. Here are a few glaring ones:
- Denial or delayed acceptance about the child's condition. This is unfortunately true even amongst well educated and /or economically forward people which often leads to precious time lost for early intervention.
- Lack of sensitivity and understanding of being speciay by neurotypical kids as well as their parents in the society. Awareness hasn’t really translated into acceptance. This is also true for educational institutions that offer a liberal lip service when it comes to admitting and working with special children, inspite of the child’s fundamental right to education.
With parents of a special child, after the hurdle of acceptance comes lack of understanding of the different kinds of disorders and disabilities. This makes true inclusion a farfetched dream as there are so many myths, social stigma, lack of understanding, lack of resources and lack of skill and will amongst the stakeholders, be it the government, educational institutions or the media.
- Misconceptions regarding the term 'special needs' in the minds of many parents. Many children who exhibit behaviours which need intervention at a younger age, are overlooked or not given training at the right time due to parental fear of getting labelled as a special child in the society. They fail to understand that early intervention is extremely important to overcome the challenges whether it's intellectual, behavioural or physical, that are faced by the children.
Any advice for parents of special children?
The only way you can bring out the best in your child is by providing them a positive, motivating environment and an investment to equal opportunity for learning. Let us never judge their capabilities basis what we want them to do or benchmark it with neurotypical children of the same age, but instead bring out the best in them which makes them confident, progressive and independent.
Consistent and intensive efforts always yield excellent results. Parents are the only constant factor in the child's life...so never ever give up. Just as child-care is important, self-care is of utmost important and often parents don’t take that very seriously. You can see great results in your child only if you in a healthy state of mind and body. To the younger parents .... please do not be in denial and delay in seeking help for early intervention in the hope that your child will anyways get better with age.
In my brief interaction with Kavitha, I’ve managed to gather some things about her. She’s a woman who has conviction, a heart of gold and is someone who has set out to bring a sea change in the world. And I’m not someone who is ashamed to admit, that Kavitha and her story have changed the way I look at those with special needs. It’s time we as a society take a hard look at where we are with inclusivity. She’s not just a special mom, she’s a Supermom. A true inspiration.
You can contact Communicare by calling on +91 9324658981 or writing to them on email@example.com
To learn more about Kavitha, Communicare and Inclusive education. Visit: www.communicareeducation.com
About the 21 series:
On the 24th of March 2020, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced a nation-wide lock-down for 21 days to fight the pandemic that is the Corona Virus. Citizens mustn’t leave their homes unless absolutely essential. This series aims to bring to the readers 21 positive stories through this 21-day lock-down. Something to inspire them to keep at it and come back out of this horrific tragedy stronger.
If you have an inspiring story or know someone whose story the world must know, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org