Despite being a good student (academically ranked number three in the class) in his present school, Amit(name changed) has very low self-esteem, was inert-acting, his head down. Even having a supportive school environment with helpful teachers and peers had not helped build his confidence. Fifteen-year-old Amit, from the Dalit community, is studying in grade IX, in one of the inclusive schools in mid-western Nepal (location changed). He is visually impaired (with complete blindness). Having an incurable eye condition, he trained at the Enabling/Rehabilitation Centre of BPEF-CHEERS five years ago with support from the USAID (PGRD-14-0002-17). A comprehensive health evaluation and assessment at the Hospital for Eyes ENT and Rehabilitation Services(CHEERS) of B.P. Eye Foundation(BPEF) in Bhaktapur, Nepal led to identifying his medical and educational needs. And get enrolled at the Enabling Centre. Having problems in speech and performing daily living activities like bathing, brushing, using the toilet properly, Amit received training which included identification of food and other materials using the clock concept; speech therapy and pre braille. Being a quick learner, Amit was a transformed person when he graduated in three months in 2016, being able to perform his daily tasks on his own and a marked improvement in his speech. Admitted to the Resource Class of his school, he was sent to Class V with sighted students after two years.
On meeting Amit again in 2021, it was heartbreaking to see the change in the confident child who had graduated from BPEF-CHEERS. Low self-confidence was evident from his behaviour. After one or two sessions of psychosocial counselling, using various techniques like active listening, self-exposure, probing and reflection of feelings, there was a slight difference in his reticent behaviour, which gradually started to change. His inhibitions reduced to a small extent, with some evidence in the enhancement of self-esteem. He later wrote them down some of his problems in braille and read them out. Feeling discriminated against due to the negative attitude and behaviour of family members Amit felt hurt and extremely angry. He complained of frequently being taunted by his brothers’ hurtful words and inconsiderate behaviour. “My brothers hold their fingers close to my eyes and say, you can’t see. Whenever I want to go out to meet friends, they question me and say why you want to go out and make a fool of yourself. You should think of our family honour,” he remarked. Constantly reminded of his disability, he felt trapped and helpless and lost his self–worth, never feeling that he is good enough. Amit was reassured that this issue would be brought up indirectly, with his parents. His father (given that his mother was not available) was called separately for psychosocial counselling. He was provided counselling on emotional, behavioural and psychological aspects. He was asked to reflect on and compare his own behavior, understanding of disability, empathy towards his child with a disability, before and after Amit received training at BPEF-CHEERS and work on applying the same principles to his other family members, particularly his sighted sons. During another follow-up, Amit’s father was further reminded of his responsibility towards his child with blindness/disability, including persistently guiding his other family members to treat Amit with empathy and kindness. He was advised to repeatedly ask all family members to stop reminding the child of his disability through name-calling, or reprimanding him for minor tasks like falling or tripping on objects kept in his way. Instead, they needed to make small efforts to make the home disability-friendly by removing objects obstructing his path. Family members needed to be sensitive towards Amit, as they sometimes tend to overlook the fact that a child with blindness/disability is present at home. And most important, is to accept their child’s disability and help him overcome it. They need to feel, think and act with respect as well. Reassurance and encouragement is what the child needs most. It also took a lot of encouragement, praise and counselling to get Amit to identify his problems and find solutions to them during follow up sessions. He was made to realize that he is not the only one with problems, and reflect on his future plans, to which he had not given a serious thought. At the end of the counselling sessions, Amit felt confident enough to handle some of his problems that would keep coming up. This gave him a purpose and hope for a bright future. He said he would try and control his anger, and deal with his brothers in a rational manner. He mentioned that whenever they were in a good mood, he would tell them how he feels about their treatment and request them to be nice to him. He revealed that they were nice to him at times- for instance whenever his disability allowance was handed to them. His brothers, although with not much education, are economically independent and support most of the family members, including his parents. Amit has started having a lot more hope for his future. “I want to become a teacher when I grow up. I would like to move to Kathmandu-the Capital, work hard and do better than my brothers and make a life for myself and my parents.” He hopes to get a scholarship to study in Kathmandu, for which BPEF-CHEERS will provide some leads and connect him to the concerned people after his Secondary Education Examination (SEE). Tele-counseling will be provided to him and his family from time to time. Amit’s education could be a door opener for him if he works hard towards his goals.