Sol’s ARC conducts innovative education research to build inclusive learning content, ensuring every child can learn and that its innovation reaches the last mile.
Published on December 20, 2020 at 3:06 pm
Updated on March 20, 2021 at 06:51 am
“What do you want to be when you grow up Sanskar?” Sanskar replied, “When I grow up, I want to go to the office, earn money and get married to my wife”. Such a simple dream but Sanskar’s statement changed the course for Sol’s ARC, a Mumbai-based NGO. The staff knew in their heart that no matter what they do within the organisation, they will never be able to fulfil Sanskar’s dream.
Sanskar came to Sol’s ARC when he was just six years old. His mother was worried and said his teacher in school can’t understand how to teach or communicate with him. His teacher kept complaining that he doesn’t sit in one place, doesn’t give eye contact and prefers to be in his own world.
The staff knew when he came to Sol’s ARC that he had autism, a developmental disability in which communication and social skills are affected. At that point Sol’s ARC (Assessment and Remedial Centre) functioned as a therapy centre for children who had special needs and were across a spectrum of disabilities like intellectual disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disability, mental health issues etc. basically children who were struggling to learn and adjust in a typical classroom.
Sol’s ARC was founded by Sonali Saini who has done her Masters in Special Education and was passionate about making a difference in the lives of children like Sanskar. Her dream was to give them a better future. This dream, however, was shattered the day she realised no matter how much Sanskar had learnt after many years of intervention through Sol’s ARC, there was no future for him.That’s when the realisation dawned that it’s not Sanskar’s inability that restricted his future but opportunities and awareness in the society that needed to change. That meant bringing about systemic change in the ecosystem that Sanskar functioned in. But could Sol’s ARC, a tiny organisation working in the special education space, create such a massive shift on its own?
The officials knew the solution but did not understand the how. But they were determined and resolved that they will accelerate the inclusion revolution in India. They also knew they could not do this alone and needed to leverage and collaborate to bring in this systemic change. They saw themselves not as someone who pushed the wheelchair to assist the person with a disability but the one who built the ramp to empower and create a sustainable change. This approach was the answer to the how.
The next step was to ask the right questions. What’s stopping millions of children like Sanskar from fulfilling their dreams. And here were the three key questions that needed to be answered.
Q1: How will I learn the way I can?
Only 27% of children in Grade 3 can read a grade 2 textbook. 56% of children in Grade 8 cannot do division (ASER 2018). The officials at Sol’s ARC realised it is not just Sanskar who but many other children in India who did not have a disability were also struggling to achieve basic literacy and numeracy skills.
Solution by Sol’s ARC:
Special Edge – A school Inclusion Project. Build inclusive learning content and methods that would benefit all children in a classroom including children with disabilities. Sol’s ARC partnered with some of India’s leading NGOs working in the field of education and improved their capacity to enable inclusion by giving them inclusive content on English and mathematics and trained their teachers to ensure that every last child in the classroom could learn.
Q2: Why am I struggling, how can I be included?
Children struggle to learn due to various reasons like:
• Demographics (social structure, gender, geography etc)
• Disability (15% of children have some form of disability)
• Mental health issues (12% of children between the age of 4 to 16 suffer from psychiatric disorders)
• Child Abuse (50% of children face some form of abuse)
• Teachers are not aware of these issues and are unable to identify these children at risk leading to years of frustration for the child and their families
Solution by Sol’s ARC:
Red Flag Project – An Identification and Awareness Project. Develop an App-based assessment tool for the identification of children at risk followed by training of teachers and other stakeholders to increase identification and awareness.
Q3: How will I get skilled for the job that’s right for me?
More than 90% of adults with autism and intellectual disabilities are unemployed. In India, there are approximately 81 lakh adults who have autism and intellectual disabilities.
Solution by Sol’s ARC:
Pathways – The Vocational Training Project. Sol’s ARC works closely with industry partners and the government to map and identify appropriate jobs for this population in various sectors. It then develops vocational training courses validated by the industry and the government for increased job opportunities for some of the most vulnerable adults in the open workforce.
Sanskar today is in his last year of vocational training and is doing internships at Big Bazaar and Amazon and will soon be employed by the next year. Sol’s ARC believes he is on his way to achieving his dreams; and for it, Sanskar’s dream has become its inspiration and a driver to bringing about a systemic change for millions of vulnerable children in India.