From a homemaker to a social entrepreneur
According to a survey, 8.3% Indian households have disabled persons. This number is increasing day by day. These children mostly suffer due to lack of awareness among their family members, lack of opportunities and resources. Sharmila Shekhar is a social entrepreneur who has taken an initiative to train such children and spread awareness about them in the society.
Sharmila was a homemaker until 2007. Inspite of acquiring Masters degree in Labour and Social Welfare(LSW), PGDCA and MBA (HR), she, just like most of the other Indian women, had given up her career for her family. She has always contributed to the society in one way or another. Be it teaching kids of the deprived section of the society or giving vocational training to underprivileged girls to teaching basic English to the illiterate women in the society, she has done it all.
The son of one of her family friends was differently abled. Seeing Sharmila gel with him so well, his parents asked her to teach him as there was no institute for such children in Greater Noida. She agreed to this and started mentoring him. She devised new ways to teach him while playing with him. In the process, she also got an opportunity to learn more about such children from his parents. Sharmila started training three more differently abled kids along with him.This was the beginning of Sharmila’s career. She continued teaching those kids with a lot of devotion. Every day the kids used to say something new and their parents would come and appreciate the efforts she was putting in their children.
She has come a long way now and has taught more than 100 differently abled kids so far. She has acquired B.Ed degree in Mental Retardation and has registered herself with the Rehabilitation Council of India. Her CRR number is A43737. She wears multiple hats in her organization. She is a special educator ,a speech therapist and also an occupational therapist. She has taught kids with various disabilities such as Autism, ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Dyslexia, Aphasia, Learning Deficiency etc. Sharmila’s efforts are commendable.
Whenever a new child comes to her, she first diagnoses the problem of the child and designs specialized techniques according to the child’s problem. Then, as and when required, she modifies these techniques according to child’s requirement. She, then provides the required therapy- behavioural, speech or occupational. She also provides guidance and counselling to the children’s parents.
The biggest challenge for her is that she has to devise new ways of teaching according to each child. She analyses the strengths, weaknesses and interests of each kid and then decides what teaching method would best suit the child. She has to deal with various behavioural issues of children such as verbal and physical aggression, defiance, anger issues and anxiety. She has her self conceived techniques to unravel all these issues. For example: she handles defiance by praising the child. According to her, the best way to handle non-compliance is by letting the child know that there is a reward for compliance. She likewise says that if a child doesn’t hear you out immediately, don’t repeat yourself many times as this will reduce the likelihood of the child listening to you.
Sharmila has defied the conventional teaching methods and has her own innovative ideas to teach such children.She makes the children insert beads in a string to improve their hand eye coordination. In the process, the children also learn counting and learn to recognize various colours. She uses legos and flashcards to teach spellings. For better comprehension of the concepts, she uses techniques such as storytelling using puppets, mimicry, mono acting and mime. As a part of their training, Sharmila also teaches them skills necessary for day-to-day life, such as being able to communicate effectively, interact with others, and take care of oneself.
She has made a difference to the lives of so many children. She is often invited to various schools to offer counselling sessions to parents of special children and provide training to teachers on how to deal with these children. She has a long way to go in contributing to the growth and development of these special children.
According to her, there is no age bar for starting a career. All women in the society have enormous amount of potential. They just need to have courage to take the initial step.