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Walking towards hope

R Sriram Srinivas, who has multiple disabilities—mental retardation and spastic diplegia—takes a breather during his yoga session at home. P Settu, his yoga therapist, who has been teaching Sriram two years now, says that Sriram used to be inattentive and restless, but now follows instructions well and has mellowed down significantly.  



Images and text by Naveen P M

Walking towards hope (2/9)

M Vanitha, Sriram's teacher, helps Sriram wear his dance apparel before the start of the 'World Differently Abled Day Cultural Programme' at Don Guanella Special School in Chennai. Due to Sriram's condition, simple tasks such as putting on clothes can become a chore and he often ends up needing some assistance. 


Walking towards hope (3/9)

Sriram rides his bicycle—fitted with a custom-made backrest—flanked by special education teacher, G V Arumugam. Arumugam has known Sriram for 15 years and was initially hired to teach him basic reading and writing skills. On Sriram's parents' request, he started to assist Sriram in walking and then taught him how to ride a bicycle so he could improve his muscle tone. 

Read Sriram's story here


Walking towards hope (4/9)

R Devi helps Sriram read a clock at Sai Sri Ram Training Centre. Sriram has difficulty reading and writing even basic words, and has a hard time grasping universal concepts such as time, date, and money. Devi is Sriram's favorite teacher. Sai Sri Ram Training Centre has eight students with special needs, two teachers, and a domestic help. The school functions from 10 am to 3 pm and keeps the students busy with a plethora of activities such as coloring, computer games, and yoga.


Walking towards hope (5/9)

M R Karthik, physical trainer, subjects Sriram to one of the many "balancing exercises" to improve his balance and correct his "scissor gait". Karthik has been training Sriram for the last two years. "In the beginning, Sriram could hardly stand for a minute on his own and displayed a lot of traits commonly seen in persons with Intellectual Disability (ID), such as lack of eye contact, droning, drooling...," says Karthik.

Read Sriram's story here


Walking towards hope (6/9)

Sriram and his classmates from Sai Sri Ram Training Centre perform to a medley of Bollywood songs at the 'World Differently Abled Day Cultural Programme' held in Don Guanella Special School, Chennai. P Dharani Kumar, a professional choreographer, composed the dance moves for this performance. He visits the school every weekend to teach dance to these students. "Sriram usually has trouble recollecting and executing my dance moves but he stepped his game up through some spontaneous moves," he said. 

Read Sriram's story here

Walking towards hope (7/9)

Sriram is ecstatic after receiving a silver medal for the Standing Long Jump event. His driver, D Alvin (right), and Sriram's mother, R Vanitha, gather around to congratulate him, at the Special Olympics Sports Meet held on YMCA Grounds, Chennai. Sriram shares a special bond with Alvin and the two can often be seen engaging in healthy banter. 


Walking towards hope (8/9)

Sriram does a lap of backstroke at The League Club, Chennai. His parents introduced him to swimming at the age of seven after a doctor suggested hydropathy as treatment. Sriram has been training under U Sathish Kumar, swim coach for children with special needs, for one year now. Sriram won four gold medals in as many events at two swim meets for para-athletes held last year in Tamil Nadu.


Walking towards hope (9/9)

Dr J Paul Devasagayam, Area Director, Special Olympics Bharat, Tamil Nadu, reviews Sriram Srinivas's progress with his mother, R Vanitha, during one of their monthly meetings at his 100-square-foot office in Purasawalkam, Chennai.


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When can a person with mental illness return to work?

Here's how you can determine when your loved one is fit enough to get back to work

Experts offer some simple guidelines that can help you determine when your loved one can go back to work after treatment for a mental illness.

1. Symptomatic response: Does the person still exhibit the symptoms of the illness? Check with your psychiatrist about the status of their symptoms, and whether the psychiatrist would recommend that they return to work.

The nature of the psychiatric illness also plays a role in this factor. For instance, given the right treatment, a person with mild to moderate deperssion will be symptom free earlier than a person who is being treated for OCD.

2. Change in their habits: Are they eating well, sleeping well and interacting with others the way they did before the onset of the illness? Are they expressing a motivation to keep themselves occupied and/or return to work?

3. Managing a daily routine: Are you confident that they will be able to get back to work and stick to a working routine?

Sometimes, caregivers are reluctant to allow their loved ones to return to work due to lack of confidence in their abilities, or fear that the stress may be too much. But, chances have to be taken to help the person return to a certain level of functioning.

There are certain things you can do to help your loved one with their transition:

  • Try to get comfortable with the idea that they will go back to work, and will be able to interact with others and take care of themselves through the day.
  • Do the right groundwork and enlist support service at the workplace. You could choose to support your loved one find employment in a place that understands their concerns and is inclusive. If they are returning to a job that they held before the illness, take the time to speak to the employer, explain what has happened, and how the employer can support them.
  • If your loved one does not have a job they can go back to, their morale may be a bit low. They may reflect on lost opportunities and compare themselves with their peers who seem to be settled comfortably in their jobs. Boost their confidence. Encourage them to find a job that suits their interests and skills.
  • Before they return to the workplace, give them additional responsibilities and opportunities for social interaction so that they have a sense of being valued. You could do this by taking them along to weddings or other social events, involving them in household decisions, shopping, running errands or paying the bills. It is important to do these in gradual steps so that the person doesn’t feel overwhelmed, and takes on what they can handle comfortably.

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