From the hands of special children

By Naomi N Published on Jul 28, 2017 03:31 PM IST

Chennai: The next time you see products labelled Tarang, don't hesitate to buy it. A lot of dedication and hard work by special children have gone into their making.

A group of mentally challenged, Down Syndrome and autistic children have grouped to sell their own products. Organic wheat flour, rice uppuma mix, kanji mix, paruppu podi are some of the powdered items the special children make. They also sell cut vegetables.

Agarbathis, jute bags, hand-painted clay pots and lanterns, and other decorative items are also made by them and sold under the label Tarang.

However, Tarang may not be flourishing in the market and it is not profit-oriented either, even though the pricing is competitive. Interested individuals are buying the products directly at Mitr Cafe, Kalakshetra Colony, Besant Nagar even as a few organic stores will have them on their shelves soon.

For making these products, the children, aged between 11-50, have the absolute support of their parents. Some of the parents stay with them the whole time. These children are non-verbal and need to be trained in speaking. Gomathi, who is deeply involved in Tarang, trains nine children, including three girls.

The children are mentally challenged, suffer from Down Syndrome or autistic. "The parents help them in sourcing the raw materials, some of them accompany the parents to buy it and learn how to count and give cash and get the balance. The raw materials are powdered and packed. The sessions are helpful. We found the core competence of these children: some are good in sealing packets and some can fill the packets with the right measure - 250 gm or 1 kg. It is done to keep such children engaged, otherwise they get moody and lethargic," said Gomathi.

The premises of Mitr Cafe at Kalakshetra is used for gathering and working, the parents have procured the machines for making the products.

The children have hitches with communication and Gomathi takes classes to help them speak.

"Recently, at a session, I tried teaching the children eight words like mat, rat, bat and pat. It was an ecstatic moment when a 27-year-old woman said two words out of eight as she is non-verbal and keeps to herself. I also try to make them write their own name and basic numbers," she said.

Gomathi, a corporate trainer, is here because of a personal experiences. She was working with Punjab National Bank and took voluntary retirement in 2011. Gomathi realised how stressed out parents with special children are and began her start-up to help slow learners. Coaching such children, she says, is not easy: "You can’t push them to learn or work, they also have mood swings."