Shriraksha Rao, a cherubic grade 2 student at Government Higher Primary School, Belur, has catalepsy- a neurological condition characterized by a lack of response to external stimuli, muscular rigidity, and fixed posture, making the limbs stagnant. Occurring in bouts like seizures, it can cause reduced responsiveness and minimal speech, even after the episode is over. This condition had made the 7-year-old always fearful of when it would strike again, though she was on medication.
“She was silent yet very jittery, she avoided interactions with her classmates. Coupled with her feeble social skills, was her reluctance to show interest in academics. No amount of cajoling by her mother or me had helped”, says Shriraksha’s downhearted school teacher Shashikala Jadhav. “When I entered the school, I noticed that the girl needed special attention,” recalls Pavitra Aragannavar, the Foundation’s EarlySpark Instructor.
Being a non-medical, the instructor decided to implement the simple yet powerful teaching methods she had just learned at EarlySpark’s Teacher Learning Lab. She made Shriraksha the leader of the class. “Though entirely unforthcoming in the beginning, she gradually began directing her classmates, even reprimanding them if they did not follow class rules”, says Pavitra, with a grin.
Having become slightly more comfortable standing in front of everyone, Shriraksha was asked to write letters on the blackboard. Hesitatingly, she wrote a few, to spontaneous applause from her classmates. Her mother was doubly pleased that her daughter was not only writing but also obeying her commands. “Her apprehensions have reduced, and her responsiveness has improved. The attractive worksheets with open-ended questions have helped improve her speaking and thinking ability”, says her teacher, elatedly.
“I sense that Shriraksha now feels much more in control, and even when she has episodes of catalepsy, she is able to come out of it unscathed. At home, she endears herself by all, regaling them with stories from school”, shares her delighted mother. During the hand-holding process by the EarlySpark instructor, the school teacher learned the art of motivating children instead of pressurizing them.
“The hand-holding provides a steady anchor that any child needs when they are sailing in rough weather. The program has been helpful to me in understanding the different needs of children and guiding them accordingly”, says the school teacher. Shriraksha’s rise like a phoenix from her volatile neurological disorder to near-recovery was not just a medical miracle but also one brought about by the priceless virtues of calmness, kindness, and courage.