Indchem Electronics Ltd (1978) was established by N Kumar. Indchem Electronics Limited, Chennai was at the cutting edge of multimedia technology with over a staff of 300 members and a turnover of over Rs.250 crores. Indchem manufactured several technological innovations including, sound and graphic cards. The Indchem Research and Development Laboratory (IRDL), was a unit of the Indchem Group.
Well established in the late eighties, the IRDL team began to ask itself how it could use computers to benefit society, when Air Vice Marshal V. Krishnaswamy retiring from the Air Force and interested in using technology in the services to society became part of the Indchem Electronics Ltd. Deciding to explore how computers could benefit the handicapped, the team zeroed down their search to the area of providing services to persons with mental retardation. Mrs. Jaya Krishnaswamy an educationist and who had just retired as Senior Head Mistress, of a leading school at Delhi also became one of the members of the team. Air Vice Marshal Krishnaswamy and his wife Mrs. Jaya Krishnaswamy visited several educational organizations as well as the schools for children with disabilities while gathering information on how much of computer technology had entered the domain of disabilities.
The breakthrough soon came in January 1987, when the Krishnaswamys met Ms. Vasanthi Pai – President, Federation for the Welfare of Mentally Retarded (FWMR), Delhi. Interested in the mission that the Krishnaswamys had taken up, Mrs Vasanthi Pai informed them that the Federation had with it a Carribean version of the Portage Program, a training program, developed in Portage, a location in the USA for training persons with mental retardation in the management of their condition from infancy through adult years. Displaying the program to the Krishnaswamys, Mrs. Pai asked whether they could work on a similar one but with a cultural base that would be familiar and therefore easily acceptable to the persons using the program.
The seeds for thinking on such a project were sown at that very moment. Ruminating over the idea, Krishnaswamys began their search on discovering the right person who would direct them on this very exciting enterprise they wished to begin, and at the earliest. Thinking along the same lines, but as yet unknown to the Krishnaswamys, was Professor Jeyachandran, a developmental psychologist and special educator who had returned to India in 1978 after four years of fruitful life in the USA where he had taken his Doctorate and Post Doctorate Certifications in the subject from the University of Minnesota.
In 1981 The Portage Association USA had introduced, through a Special Children’s Parents Group, the Portage Intervention Program to service providers in India who were looking for one on which they could base their training at their centers. Prof. P Jeyachandran who was involved in the study of the suitability of the program had pointed out that though the program had been developed very scientifically, yet, because of the heavy cultural load in it, biased as it was towards the needs of the persons in the USA, there still was the unfulfilled need for the development of a program suited to the cultural requirements of India. The Madras Developmental Programming System, (MDPS), a result oriented system and an outcome of the work by Prof P. Jeyachandran and his team had been, in 1974, introduced at many service providing centers in India, and its suitability to the needs of the persons with mental retardation had been well established. Prof. Jeyachandran was however keen to elaborate on an exclusive augmentation to the MDPS in the area of early intervention age group, birth to six years.
“A stroke of destiny’ is how the Krishnaswamys describe the circumstances that led to their meeting with Prof P. Jeyachandran and beginning to work under his guidance. Before undertaking to develop and computerize an early intervention program, the Krishnaswamys wanted to be very sure that this was what they were meant to concentrate on in the field of mental retardation. As they posed their queries to Professor Jeyachandran, he responded by describing two areas of great and urgent need for persons with mental retardation: Vocational Training and Early Intervention. It made sense at that point of time to choose the area of early intervention for working on. The reason was that there were already a few programs in use in the area of vocational training for adolescents and adults but there still existed a void in the area of early intervention. There was no structured, simple, easy to use, early intervention program suited to the cultural needs of the children in the country but there was a dire need for its developmentbecause early intervention provided the base for the children to enter school program and continue further into higher programs as they grew in years. Prof. P. Jeyachandran sounded the final call: Let’s prepare the children as well as it should be and pave way for their vocational training in future years.
UPANAYAN meaning “to lead along”, symbolic of the teacher taking the child along the path of education, was on its way to becoming a reality. Looking back everyone involved in the project, describes it is as the coming together of three motivations:
In September 1987, the Management committee of the IRDL formally approved the proposal to design Upanayan. A budget was allocated towards the project which had the backing of Mr. N Kumar of Sanmar group.
The first phase in Upanayan was developed for training children, age group 0-2 years, detecting and identifying their disabilities as early as possible and providing the required early intervention services through individualized education program plans. An interdisciplinary team of experts, under the guidance of Prof. P. Jeyachandran was soon formed. The team selected 250 discrete behavioral skills from the internationally available researched materials in the area, with fifty skills in each of the five development areas of motor, self-help, language, cognition and socialization. Prof. Jeyachandran who, meticulously guided Mrs. Krishnaswamy, in the writing of the program modules, insisting that each of the training instruction be written in observable and measurable terms, had the program field tested with special educators, parents and experts in the field at the various centers, worked tirelessly to perfect the training modules before handing them over to the centers. Every professional had offered their services free of cost. The goal was completed on time. By September 1989, the modules were completed. The Final version was accepted by professionals and parents for its simplicity, easy use and the structure it provided for the learner. Field testing had been carried out at 7 centers to test the workability and suitability of the activities.
Buoyed by the fact that people wanted to use the program, the team proposed starting a research cum demonstration centre at Chennai. N. Kumar, of Indchem Electronics Ltd., spontaneously offered to sponsor its establishment and its management.Appropriately the centre was named after Mrs. Madhuram Narayanan wife of Mr. K S Narayanan, and mother of Mr. N. Sankar and Mr. N Kumar of Sanmar Group. And so on December 12, 1989 the birth day of Mrs. Madhuram Narayanan, the Madhuram Narayanan Centre for Exceptional Children was born.
The services at the Centre comprises the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), physiotherapy, occupational and speech therapy where required, yoga, music and play therapy, field trips and outdoor and indoor activities.
Total parental involvement is the very basis of the intervention program at the Centre. In addition to the habilitation of the children, the twin objective of the Centre is the rehabilitation and empowerment of parents, to enable them to come to terms with their child’s disability.