Capacity Building for Carers of Children with Learning Disabilities

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF5 Sub-theme: Health // This paper examines the role of open and distance learning in equipping carers of children with learning difficulties with basic skills, attitudes and capacities that will enable them to foster optimal development in their children and an attitude of acceptance and positive coping within the family as a whole. Specifically, it focuses on parents and carers of children with autism in India. Autism is a ‘silent disorder’ which usually is unaccompanied by physical markers and whose manifestations are behavioural rather than physiological. It is therefore one of the least understood disorders and children affected by it seldom have access to appropriate therapy and interventions. This paper suggests a means of promoting awareness and putting in place basic behaviour-management strategies through an ODL package that will deliver information at the door-steps of carers. It builds upon an existing model already in place in the form of ‘Awareness and Training Packages’ for parents and carers of children with visual impairment, mental retardation and cerebral palsy developed by IGNOU, the premier Distance Learning University in India, in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Council of India. // To enrich this model, we suggest the incorporation of inputs drawn from a highly popular and successful program conducted by ‘Action for Autism’, a leading Non Governmental Organisation located in New Delhi, entitled the ‘Mother and Child Program’ (MCP). It proposes a partnership between an established ODL system and a vigorous NGO which has justifiably earned itself the reputation of being synonymous with the autism movement in South Asia. // The paper begins with a review of the Indian scenario in the context of autism. It makes a case for parental empowerment as a key to child outcomes. It describes the salient features of both, the MCP and the Awareness packages presently available and how these can be creatively integrated in the context of Autism in India. // Paper ID 317