Association for the Welfare of Persons with a Mental Handicap – AWMH

Partner From
03/31/2017 - On Going

Supported by: Wipro Cares

About AWMH

AWMH-Maharashtra is one of the first parents’ associations in India, initiating the Parents Movement for the acceptance, welfare, and rehabilitation of their children. Started initially as a place for counseling parents devastated with the birth of a child with intellectual disability, and guiding them over to acceptance and empowerment, AWMH has grown into an institution, administering therapy to around 100 children with neuro-developmental delay every month at its Early Intervention Centers. The Sports and Coaching Center encourages special schools in Maharashtra to promote sports and physical development. The Recreational Activity Club strives to build self-confidence amongst the members. It has grown into a beacon that guides persons with intellectual disability and their guardians towards joyful living. AWMH Maharashtra has a strong membership of over 450 institutions, teaching institutions, NGOs working in the field of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and Parents’ Associations.

Current Programs

WIPRO Cares supports AWMH centers at Mulund and Dombivili. They have been providing EI therapy and pre-school services for children aged 1-6 years having developmental delays or disabilities. AWMH staff consisting of occupational therapists, speech therapist, special educators, and caretakers provide the EI services. The clinical psychologist makes an assessment. The emphasis is on building potential of such children for mainstreaming and inclusion in the future.

Therefore, the children are provided with holistic inputs consisting of needed therapies, experiential education inputs, behavior modification, group therapy, celebrating cultural events and festivals together, undertaking social visits, and taking part in-group as well as individual performances in public gatherings.  In addition, the domestic and family environment of each child is monitored and need of additional inputs at the center and/or counseling needs for the parents are identified. The parents are also encouraged to integrate the child socially both at home and in the neighborhood and community. This is achieved by maintaining a continuous dialog with parents, and at times, with neighborhood through community workers & volunteers.

New approaches adopted in response to COVID

During the days of pandemic, the EI Centers have been closed since March 2020 following enforcement of the lockdown. We decided to adopt online channels of communication and audio/video-calls to reach out to beneficiary children/families, using the homebound therapy and pre-school training format. AWMH has been emphasizing on training of parents accompanying the children to EI center in the normal course. This practice came handy and enabled us to continue our services during the pandemic. The feedback from parents and positive results in children with disabilities observed by them motivated us to further fine tune our initiative of Distance Early Intervention Therapies (DEI) and pre-school training support.

  1. Meeting the targeted Project Objectives: Average of 65 children from Mulund and Dombivili centers in Mumbai were provided regular therapeutic and experiential education training. The clinical psychologist digitally assessed these children and monitored progress. Seven children left during the period mainly due to migration of parents to their villages. They were no longer able to connect. Five new children joined based on word-of-mouth publicity. After gaining confidence with digital early intervention program in Mumbai, we used the experience to provide therapy at remote rural backward areas where families have no access to any EI services for their children. AWMH initiated ‘distance reach EI’ in remote villages of Wardha district in Maharashtra.
  2. Developed new process for maintaining services during pandemic times: COVID19 lockdown necessitated entirely new process for undertaking digital based activities. The outline of new process adopted was formed after consultation with specialist from National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, Secunderabad (NIEPID), Mr. Mickey Gole, Digital Media consultant, and CHAI.

The revised intervention model has been implemented with following activities. The status of each child based on previous targets and achievements is updated. Requirement analysis of online therapeutic and special education training for children is undertaken. Initial video/audio coaching is then provided for mother/family of children to carry out homebound training. Video conferencing is done with families to encourage family participation and well-being, along with one-to-one counseling of parents, where required. Therapeutic sessions are held through videos that are closely monitored, and some are recorded for peer review. Special needs videos on “how to do it yourself with the child” and eLearning materials developed by NIEPID are provided. ICMR and WHO tutorials were made mandatory for home-based tutorials of EI staff. Pandemic time became a big opportunity for teachers, therapists, and interested parents as part of overall schedule. Access to various training programs is arranged and monitored.

  1. Regular therapy and special education services to children with delayed milestones/disabilities: Parents were assisted digitally to carry out the therapy. At the end of each session, parents’ feedback and more advice followed. Parents (mostly mothers) were also counseled. They were found to be in distress.
  2. Facilitate enrolment in Special/Inclusive schools: While training has been provided to children, they will require practical familiarization of school environment, which will be done after lockdown is lifted and primary schools/EIRP centers reopen.
  3. Trained parents a major force: Parents’ competence with administering therapy, thanks to the training they had received during the earlier sessions at EI Centers, was a major factor in getting good response and results from distance EI. The lockdown ensured children had more time with their parents. Even fathers spent quality time. The parents did amazing work in improvising with daily use household items available during lockdown for use as tools of EI therapy!
  4. After the online sessions, parents are encouraged to post videos and photos of the children doing the activities in parents’ groups on WhatsApp. These groups have become a lively place to exchange ideas of training children. The caregiver staff watch the videos and suggest improvements as and when required and necessary.

Webinars to upgrade EI Staff skills: Links of webinars by experts in early intervention care specialties are shared in the staff WhatsApp group and staff are encouraged to attend. During subsequent meetings on Zoom, members exchange their insights with others. Therapists presented on important topics during monthly staff meetings on Zoom, followed by an interactive discussion.