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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.


When your children move away: The Empty Nest

Understanding how empty nest impacts your mental health and relationships.
Aaheli Dasgupta

What happens when our grown children decide to move out for various reasons?  What does it mean? How does one cope with the feeling of loneliness that may accompany it? We spoke to a few experts to understand this complex phenomenon.

Empty nest refers to the experience of grief and loneliness that follows after an adult child leaves home. The adult child moving away may mean different things to different people, some may realize a previously lost cause/talent(s) whilst some others may feel a terrible sense of loss. The experience is not only limited to the sadness that accompanies the child's leaving but also the sense of loss of identity as caregiver and guardian.

 The empty nest heralds a permanent change, in many ways it is the next major transition after adulthood. Often, the person is vulnerable and may experience symptoms that may look a lot like depression and/or anxiety. However, persistently feeling hopeless and worthless maybe telling of a more serious issue which may need to be addressed in therapy.

How does experiencing empty nest affect your relationship with your child?

When you experience an empty nest there is a lot of anxiety and angst that may come to the forefront. Children who begin to live independently may not be able to call as much as they’d like to and often the parents may read it as a sign of strain in the relationship. In an attempt to repair the relationship the parents may try to push or even criticise their children for not being considerate enough. This may result in further straining of the relationship. Sometimes, however, the parent and the child are able to reassess their relationship to share a friendship-like bond that enables them to navigate their respective interactions in the future.

What can children do to ease the difficulties during this period?

 As with any stressor, it is important to remain patient and empathetic. Children may find that soon after their moving away, their parents (either or both of them) have become more anxious and restless to know about their whereabouts and wellbeing. Parents may even begin to get angry for seemigly small issues (like not calling them more often). They may constantly nag their children to come back despite the latter trying their best to stay in touch with them. Sometimes, parents may cut off from conversations altogether since they may feel betrayed. In such instances, children may find themselves incredibly annoyed and helpless. A good thing for the children would be to have an open conversation about the parent's behavior is impacting them. They should let the parents know that they are willing to devote time to the latter. Sometimes, just this assurance, and listening to their woes, help rectify the strain that may have  appeared in the relationship. Children could also make it a point to spend more quality time with the parents whenver they visit them. It will help navigate the change that both of them are experiencing. 

How does empty nest syndrome affect the dynamics between the couple?

Once the child leaves home, couples end up rediscovering each other in the context of the relationship they share. One may find their spouses living up to the idea of being a great source of support and warmth, as they, too, undergo similar experiences.  However, some couples may find it hard to renegotiate their spousal roles as they shift away from being parents. This may potentially lead to certain disturbances in the relationship that may amplify the emotions felt during this period.

How does one cope with empty nest?

The first step would be to recognise the emotions associated with empty nest and assess their intensity. Talking to friends who may or may not have undergone similar experiences helps. Often, investing time in activities of interest promotes mental wellbeing, it also helps connect with interesting people. Reach out to the spouse and take up activities that are aimed at promoting intimacy. For example, you could travel together, find new experiences you both enjoy or start an exercise routine together. In the case of constant preoccupation with thoughts that are related to the loneliness and hopelessness that accompanies it, you may benefit from visiting a mental health professional.

What can you expect from the mental health professionals?

Despite this not being a diagnosable condition the expert may provide a safe space to voice the feelings that accompany this transition. By speaking to a professional you may gain insight into your thought patterns and develop skills that may help you renegotiate the changes in relationships that this period brings.  

With inputs from Dr Preeti Sinha, NIMHANS.


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