The Special Child Trust
Pritish Nandy Communications
‘Mysteries of the mind’… ‘Grey areas’…
Never have these terms been more apt or deeper linked, than when it comes to Developmental Disorders. Autism Spectrum Disorders, Learning Disabilities like Dyslexia, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and the like, all come under the gamut of Developmental Disorders. As varied the ailments, so are their manifestations (or lack of them!), their diagnoses and therapies, and most importantly, their social and emotional consequences.
Intensive and intimate conversations with parents of children afflicted with developmental disorders, uncover the difficulties and delays in diagnosing them – the symptoms being mainly socio-psychological and behavioralthereby leading to mis-diagnosis or delayed diagnosis.
The conversations also reveal the emotional hardships faced by the parents, the siblings of the affected children as well as the entire family, in coming to terms with the fact that the child is afflicted with a developmental disorder. Interviews with family therapists reveal among other things, how the anguish of the parents is often overlooked, as the parents are mostly focussed on helping and treating the child alone, thereby neglecting to acknowledge and process their own emotions.
In-depth interviews with experienced behavioral psychologists also attempt to demystify the diagnosis of these disorders by enumerating various red-flags to look out for in a growing child, in order to recognise or rule out the possibility of a developmental disorder. They also throw light on various myths and superstitions surrounding these disorders – their causes and their so-called ‘cures’.
It is a sad but certain fact that there is at present, no cure for most developmental disorders. However, there are various avenues – therapies, special educational techniques and people and places that provide these, that help in reducing the symptoms of these disorders. The film provides an elaborate overview of these therapies. Enlightening conversations with the special educators also help us understand better, the workings of the mind of a person with developmental disorder.
A significant concern for all parents and therapists is the future prospect of a child with a developmental disorder. The film explores the subsequent issues and concerns that come with the transition of the child into an adolescent or adult – hormonal changes, sexual awareness, professional and economic potentials, social relationships, and even rites of passage.
In a poignant moment a parent raises the question – “Who is to care for him after us?” Unfortunately, there aren’t many easy answers, but raising the questions is a beginning.
And ‘Closer’ is an attempt at making that start.
The making of ‘Closer’ was both enlightening and stupefying at the same time. After researching on developmental disorders before shooting the film, I thought I had learnt a lot about it. But sitting across the interviewees during the shoot and hearing what they had to say, certainly changed that.
The complexity in the nature of the disorders, their manifestations, diagnoses and treatment, as well as the emotional fragility of those afflicted… both directly and indirectly was more than overwhelming! What was alarming was the high rate of incidence of these disorders – almost everyone in the unit had someone they knew of, who was afflicted with some kind of develomental disorder. That made working on the film, more pivotal for everyone involved.
The emotional conversations with the parents, the informative interviews with the medical professionals and special educators and mostly, filming the children and young adults afflicted with develomental disorders – I came away thinking that there is so much we are yet to learn and discover about these disorders; and so much we have yet to do – as a society, as a country and as individuals.
‘Closer’ is hopefully, a step in that direction. To create an awareness about developmental disorders as well as the issues and concerns around it, both practical and emotional.
Can we ensure enough awareness so that there are no delays in diagnoses and treatment? Can we care for the afflicted child without ignoring the emotional health of the affected family? We can have educational and vocational therapy centres for people with developmental disorders but can we assure them employment?
We may be able to provide homes for older differently-abled people who do not have any guardians, but can we ensure that they are also self-reliant?
The concerns and questions are as much for the future, as for the present. And sometimes the answers can bring a lump to your throat.
I asked a boy suffering from develomental delay, what his dearest wish would be. And he replied – “That my future is secure…” When I heard his answer I knew I had found the end for my film. And also the beginning of the endeavour for the differently-abled –
to bring them Closer.