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Centre launches new protocol, Anganwadi workers to identify and support children with disabilities

Anganwadi workers

NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 29: For the first time, Anganwadi workers will help early screen children for disabilities. Apart from screening for early disability signs, including physical and intellectual disabilities, Anganwadi workers would also provide help and support by including them in community events and referral support.
These are some key features introduced in the National Outreach Programme on Anganwadi Protocol for Divyang Children launched on Tuesday by Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Zubin Irani.
The new protocol aims to ensure overall improvement in children’s well-being through early intervention, specialised support and services for infants and young children with disability.
The idea ensures educating and supporting families and communities to improve diving or disabled children’s participation in society.
The step was taken as studies have shown that one-third of most disabilities in India can be prevented if they are caught early enough and adequately addressed.
Apart from identifying, the 14 lakh Aganwadi workers, along with ASHA and Auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) will also help the families to apply for Unique Disability IDs (UDID) and Disability certificates, which will ensure that they will get health, educational and financial support.
Speaking on the occasion, Irani said, for the first time, Anganwadi workers will help screen children for identifying any disabilities.
“If we look at it from a community perspective, it is a silent revolution in our community. For the first time, sisters from Anganwadis will spread awareness that disability is not a challenge for society but an opportunity for society to help a child. The mindset needs to be changed”, Irani said.
She said that the National Education Policy 2020 emphasises prioritising the integration of disabled students into mainstream schools.
“We know 85% of a child’s mental development happens by the age of 6. Today our education system has new provisions for divyang children…,” she said.
Irani said grassroots-level data about Divyang children will become available through Anganwadi workers and the children can be further tracked through the Poshan tracker.
There are 14 lakh Aganwadi centres, which cater to nearly 8 crore children aged 0-6 years. It is estimated that 2% of the population could have special needs.
“The Government will make child care socially acceptable and affordable”, she added.
Under this protocol, all children will be assessed for delays in their developmental milestones and screened for early signs and symptoms; their families will receive support and referrals.
The protocol also outlines how to identify and help disabled children, whether they are experiencing disabilities that are visible or invisible, severe or mild.
As per Census 2011, there are about 20.42 lakh children (0-6 years) with disabilities, comprising 7% of the child population in the country.
For Anganwadi workers, the protocol cites screening physical disabilities like cerebral palsy, dwarfism, muscular dystrophy, visual impairment, hearing issues, speech and language disability, intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity, disorder learning disabilities, dyslexia (difficulty reading), dysgraphia (difficulty writing), dyscalculia (difficulty with numbers), thalassemia, haemophilia, sickle cell anaemia and mental health problems
The protocol details activities, including toys as teaching material, for identifying the disabilities in the child.
(Courtesy: TNIE)