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- Kabita Duarah

When Jyotirmoy celebrated his 4th birthday, there were only his parents and a few family members to rejoice the occasion. No children of his age were present because he was friendless. His disability to articulate his feelings was the main obstacle to communicate with the other world beyond the world of his parents. But his lagoon like life ended when his parents brought him to the Child Guidance Centre (CGC) set up by the Guwahati Regional Centre of National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD).

Established on June 2, 2003, the CGC has been rendering yeoman service to children like Jyotirmoy, Sunny, Sneha and many others, who suffer from certain physical or mental handicaps related to speech, behaviour, physical appearance, motor coordination etc. Children like them need professional help to overcome their difficulties, and the CGC is well equipped with men and material. Parents of such children require counselling so that they can cope with their circumstances. It is entirely upto the parents how much time they can devote to their child, because their patience, love and care can go a long way in helping the child.

Parents have to work patiently with the child, because in cases like autism, everything has to be taught to the child, even show him/her how to play, says Lovely Talukdar Chowdhury, special educator of CGC.

Lovely has so far dealt with five autistic cases. Autism, which is a development disorder of the central nervous system is associated with a characteristic set of behaviour like impairment of social interactions, disordered verbal and non-verbal comunication, limited ability to participate in imaginative play. Today Lovelys countenance, glowing with satisfaction, tells things galore. With the combined effort of the paediatrician, clinical psychologist, physio-occupational therapist, speech therapist, special educator and social worker at CGC, Sneha who was diagnosed as an autistic child at 2 years, has achieved significant degree of independence, even learning the basics of mathematics.

Children with speech and language disorders have improved considerably after coming to CGC. Bimal Kumar Kalita, Speech Therapist cum Audiologist, who has treated 20 cases up to date, Jyotirmoy being one of them, is happy with the progress of his cases. It really gives you a satisfaction that cant be expressed, to hear all these children, articulating their words correctly. According to Kalita, the speech treatment which excludes medicine or surgery, emphasizes on the receptive vocabulary i.e. how much the child recognizes, but cant say and then attention is focused on the expressive vocabulary.

Parents bring their child with behavioural problems. Here our effort is to find out the real problem whether it is hyper-activity, lack of concentration, aggressiveness, shyness, depression, anxiety etc., and then go ahead, says Thangzam Mayy, social worker.

Siddharth, who is nine years old, did things which unnerved his parents and got him to a psychiatrist. When he had to defecate, he sat for hours on the commode. He woke up late, performed poorly in school, and had very bad handwriting. The psychiatrist referred Siddharth to CGC, where it was found out that he was an intelligent child but lacked concentration. So the unique treatment which he got was that he was told to write (which he hated) when he sat on the commode. And it just happened. His potty time decreased unbelievably, and with it everything changed. His handwriting improved, and so also his results.

So far, 88 cases have been registered at CGC. 12 cases with speech and behavioural problems have completely recovered. According to the CGC personnel, some cases stop coming without attaining full recovery as their parents find it inconvenient to stay in Guwahati for the treatment of their child. Though services are free at CGC, to get accommodation in the city is a financial strain for many and it is the major reason for many cases dropping out.

The dedication of the CGC personnel, their approach, their patience, has brought back the smiles to the families of Jyotirmoy, Sneha and Siddharth. If you know of any child with developmental, behavioural or learning problems, please refer to CGC for free professional help.

Timing of CGC is 9-00 a.m. to 5-30 p.m. (Monday to Friday). CGC, NIPCCD, Jawaharnagar, Khanapara, Guwahati 781022, Telephone Nos. 0361 2301843, 2301649, Fax No. 0361 2301519, e-mail: nipccdrd@sancharnet.in.