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Illuminating Journeys: Vidya Chikte and the Triumph of Inclusion

Updated: Mar 8

Once upon a time... The ‘Healing Light Award’ has touched me, and its light is especially healing for me.   It takes me back to once upon a time... It was about 16 or 17 years ago when a 6-year-old was thrown out by his so-called reputed school for being different. His parents were aghast and did not know what to do next or where to go.

They became desperate, knowing that their son must go to a school where he would be understood. He showed signs of a very high intellect, but something was amiss. I am not sure how they found out about my school, Vidya Valley and they reached there in search of justice for their child, seeking admission to grade 1 for a small boy on the autism spectrum.

Though Vidya Valley is a regular ICSE board school and not a specifically special school, we integrate a few children with special needs into mainstream education. The aim is to provide a platform for those children to explore their potential while experiencing a normal social life by being a part of their peers in school. The aim is also to give other children an opportunity to learn about diversity and inclusivity, to enhance their lives, teaching themselves and others about humanity. In my journey as a school counsellor and an arts-based therapist, I have worked with many beautiful souls who have touched me in a special way and taught me a lot.

May it be any challenge like an autistic spectrum disorder, hearing impairment, visual impairment, speech impairment, ODD, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, specific learning disability or muscular dystrophy. Or may it be a behavioural disorder because of environmental factors or a dysfunctional family background.

Each of my students had a special strength which was hidden under their life challenges. When we worked together, we could tap into their talents and bring them up to build their confidence in life. In arts-based therapy, three art forms are used as intervention: visual art, drama therapy and rhythm–drum circles using small drums known as djembe. Children explore their creativity in a fun way, in a nonjudgemental environment, and learn a lot of physical and cognitive skills to build their self-esteem. I strongly believe that any challenge in life can be dealt with and managed with acceptance, awareness, and help.

My struggle has been to assist my students in completing their schooling, graduating with reasonable marks, and gaining life skills to join the larger society outside of school. I am grateful for all that I have learnt from them, and I salute all of them! I still have a long way to go though, to correct the mistakes I have made in life.

Returning to the small boy who came to me as a 6-year-old, feeling rejected and dejected is now a 23-year-old confident budding researcher and a musician. He has completed his graduation from an esteemed science institution in India (IISER) and is looking forward to an internship at another reputed institution (IIT) .

Though all of them may not be too successful academically, they are managing their lives in a much better manner while dealing with their unique challenges and special strengths. Vidya Chikte School Counsellor, Pune.

About Nanhaa Gyan Foundation:

Nanhaa Gyan Foundation, founded by Romal Surana, is a counselling center dedicated to empowering individuals and special needs by providing education, support, and opportunities for personal and academic growth.

You can connect with them on



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