Last Updated:  09/11/2020

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Project Pitch By: Satya Special School


Proposed Project Title

Satya Mobile Therapy Unit


Thematic Area

Promotion of education, special education and vocational skills

Sub Thematic Area

Special Education

Project Synopsis

Awareness about developmental disabilities among parents is low in rural South India. The associated social stigma coupled with overcrowded government health facilities makes it difficult for parents of children with special needs (CWSNs) to receive the appropriate medical and therapeutic intervention. Semi-urban and rural areas remain untouched by medical care for CWSNs, even as urban areas fare better. Satya Special School’s Mobile Therapy Unit (MTUs) will help with early intervention and therapy of CWSNs, including physiotherapy, speech therapy, and special education. The MTU will take therapy to the doorsteps of CWSNs, ensuring that the caregiver, typically the mother, is a co-therapist in the rehabilitation process. MTUs form an important arterial link to Satya’s other initiatives, enabling the families to engage with other parents for support and resources for their children. The proposed MTU, modeled on an existing unit, will benefit villages within a radius of 40 kilometers from Pondicherry.

Overview of the Proposed Project

Estimated Budget
below INR 0.3 Cr
Proposed Location
Ariyankuppam, Bahour, Nettapakkam

Key Project Partners

Project Status
Already Implemented-Replicable


Beneficiary Type (Primary): PWDs
Beneficiary Type (Secondary): Women
Estimated No. of Beneficiaries: 25 - 100 Families
Status of Baseline Survey: Under Process

Proposed Project Description

Background: Situation of children with intellectual disabilities

Mentally challenged or "intellectual disability, is defined as significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with defects in adaptive behavior manifested during the development period, which is considered as up to 18 years, and based on the Intellectual Quotient level it can be classified as mild, moderate, severe and profound. Mental challenge is also a source of stress to the family of an individual with this disorder. From identification through treatment or education, families struggle with questions about causes and prognosis, as well as guilt, a sense of loss, and disillusionment about the future."


In most parts of India, irrespective of state, region or religion, the disgrace of giving birth to a mentally disabled child is unanimous. Despite modern human rights attitudes, the idea that a mentally disabled child is the result of the anger of gods, or ancestors, the embodiment of sin in the family or of sin itself, is widely prevalent. Parents of mentally disabled children also feel guilt and sometimes take the blame for the impairment on themselves. Families, communities and the medical profession often do not help to alleviate this guilt by their attitude to the baby and to the parents, calling the child a 'vegetable', 'useless', or 'a burden'. Inevitably this stigma and guilt result in isolation or segregation of the mentally disabled child. Mentally disabled girls fare still worse.


Consequently, children with disabilities are amongst the most marginalized sections of society in India. While in the last decade and a half, there has been a growing awareness and several significant achievements, a large number of physically and mentally challenged persons still live in alienation and isolation. Further, most of the persons with disabilities belong to the economically lower brackets. They are doubly disadvantaged since they come from the poorer sections of the society while their cost of living is higher due to the additional cost of aids and appliances, need for modifications in their dwelling units and manpower support that they may need.


The World Bank’s report “Dying for Change” explored the views of around 60,000 people who were defined as poor. The report highlighted the problems these poor people had in accessing appropriate and affordable health care. The problems they spoke of are common to all over India:

  • Cost of treatment and care (including costs of transport and loss of wages during treatment)
  • Low quality of health services available
  • Staff shortages and absenteeism
  • Lack of drugs and equipment
  • Difficulties in accessing and understanding information.
  • Another problem that poor people commonly talk about is the rudeness and lack of respect shown to them by health workers.


Solution: Mobile Therapy Unit


Satya’s Mobile Therapy Unit will leverage two of India’s greatest strengths, rather than force-fit Western models of delivery on to Indian society. These are:

  • Prevalence of joint family system in India, especially in rural areas
  • Close community ties


Taking therapy to the homes of Children with Special Needs (CWSNs) will therefore help raise awareness not just within the families, but also, due to existing close ties, among communities and villages as well.


One of the unique aspects of the mobile therapy clinics is the mother as a co-therapist. Since the mother is the child’s natural teacher, by taking the treatment to their doorsteps through the mobile clinic, they foresee greater participation of the family and the community at large. A one-to-one home intervention service teaching home management to the mother in helping her cope with the special needs of a disabled child is the main focus of the programme. Satya’s existing Mobile Therapy Unit helps deliver the following services to the parent/CWSN:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Special education
  • Training for parents, primarily mothers and grandparents, on working as co-therapists for CWS


Most children utilizing the services of the MTU are children with severe loco-motor disabilities, bringing to light the desperate need for therapeutic facilities in these villages. In the current MTU, of the 30 children being rehabilitated, nine children have never been examined or treated by a physiotherapist and five children with speech impairments and physical deformities have never had any interventions for their conditions since birth. The average age group of the children is between 10 -12 years. Due to lack of proper exercise in the developmental years, most of the children have severe stiffness of the muscles and general lack of co-ordination. Though the level of improvement may not be very great, the main aim of the MTU is to reduce the dependency level of the child and help improve their activities of daily living.

The Project can thus be summarized into the following:-


Project Activity: Mobile Therapy Unit for Children with Special Needs in Rural Pondicherry
Reach: 40 villages in and around Pondicherry
Estimated budget: Rs. 8,42,000
  • Project Activity: Mobile Therapy Unit for Children with Special Needs in Rural Pondicherry
  • Reach: 40 villages in and around Pondicherry
  • Estimated budget: Rs. 8,42,000



Additional Activities of the MTU


Based on the needs of the community, Satya’s MTUs were able to deliver the following additional services as well.

  • Aids and appliances
  • Health camps
  • Supplementary nutrition
  • Sustainable Livelihood Programs parents, especially mothers of CWSNs

The MTU also ensures that parents are connected to the larger Satya ecosystem of therapists, special educators and more importantly, other parents of CWSNs.


Impact of the Intervention

Children from 40 villages in and around Pondicherry will be screened and served by the Mobile Therapy Unit. Assuming an average of two children per village, about 80 children will be served. These children, who have never received any therapeutic intervention so far, will move towards independent performance of ADLs (Activities of Daily Living). Training of mothers (and/or other relatives) will ensure better impact of therapy on the CWSNs. This will also ensure increased awareness of mental disability among members of the general community.



Salient Features

  1. Mothers/parents as co-therapists
  2. Project already implemented with proven impact
  3. Leverages community strength of rural Pondicherry

About Satya Special School

Satya Special School works in the space of rights and empowerment of the disabled through several interventions. It educates and empowers children with special needs through its nine centres.Typically, children in the rural centres do not have independent access to appropriate resources for special education as their urban counterparts. They depend on the school for the child’s development. Satya’s schools, remedial centres, and village centres reach nearly 1000 children with various learning and developmental disabilities.

Satya’s therapeutic and academic interventions are personalized and intensive. Parents are also given extensive training on these interventions. Most of the children who are with them come from low-income families and are unable to pay for their services. Parents are typically daily wage earners and work as unskilled labour. Having a school to send their special child to has been a life-changing experience for the children and their parents.


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