Parents of six other children with special needs that TOI spoke to had similar concerns. They said that their children are now either struggling or have completely stopped carrying out basic tasks such as using washrooms, holding a plate to eat, walking, sitting on a chair, and even speaking to people. (Representative image)
CHENNAI: The pandemic has been hard on children, more so those with special needs. For more than a year now, many children with developmental delays, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy have been confined to their homes, unable to get in-person therapy essential to help them acquire physical, social and cognitive skills. Without this support, parents say, many such children have regressed in terms of life skills.
“Until a year ago, my son would stand up, sit, walk and carry out all basic tasks by himself, but now he’s completely dependent on me. He keeps lying on his bed, and we have to carry him to do everything,” said T Maheshwari, a school teacher whose five-year-old has cerebral palsy and is also autistic. Maheshwari’s son used to attend a special school, which closed during the pandemic. Their physiotherapist too stopped coming home, and since then the child’s condition has worsened.
Rukmini Ramamoorthy, an IT professional whose son has spastic cerebral palsy, said he has also stopped using the toilet. “He was perfectly fine as long as he was attending school, but now everything has gone back to the beginning. He also has a temper now. I do not know how long it will take us to get him back to the routine.”
Parents of six other children with special needs that TOI spoke to had similar concerns. They said that their children are now either struggling or have completely stopped carrying out basic tasks such as using washrooms, holding a plate to eat, walking, sitting on a chair, and even speaking to people.
While most special schools are conducting online classes offering therapy to children and training their parents, not all can follow. “Since the pandemic, my husband and I have been working 16 hours a day, we don’t have a caretaker anymore. We are doing all that we can to help our son, but it’s still not enough,” said Padmaja Budi, parent of an autistic child.
Dr. B S Virudhagirinathan, a neuropsychologist, said that online classes are different from learning in a classroom.“Parents are not equipped to provide therapies to children with help online. But they can create support groups with experts and come up with individual child care plans,” he said.
Dr. Ennapadam S Krishnamoorthy, behavioural neurologist and neuropsychiatrist and founder of Buddhi Clinic, said children will get back on track once the government declares special schools essential services and reopens them. “They must treat it as a hospital and can impose all their checks and balances. But the children need it because engaging them online is hard,” he said.