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Top 5 Benefits Of Children Growing Up With Pets

When I was a little child, my letter to Santa every year read the same. “Dear Santa, I’ve been good. Please bring me a puppy for Christmas this year.” And although I was good and Santa was very generous, somehow my Christmas wish came true only when I turned 23. There’s lots written about pets making great companions for adults and the aged but the true gift of a pet lies in growing up with one. Beyond the initial excitement of bringing home a puppy, kitten or even a chick, there are various scientifically proven advantages of growing up with pets. Here are the top 5:

1. Emotional Development: 

Although just not through ownership of a pet, but more from caring for a pet, children learn to develop strong emotional bonds from growing up with a pet. A review of 22 studies on the impact of companion animals on children, the authors concluded that growing up with pets is linked to higher emotional and cognitive development. This helps children build empathy and respect. Bonding with pets helps children with special needs, particularly those with ADHD, Autism, develop empathy and better social behaviours. Kids develop better self-esteem from experiencing unconditional love from a pet. And in the inevitable experience of the passing of a pet, children learn to grieve and bereave. 

2. Companionship :

Children love companionship and as we are about to find out, it isn’t limited to human companionship. Children with pets are less likely to experience loneliness as a study by Rhoades, H.; Winetrobe, H.; Rice,  has shown. Pets also provide comfort to children. In a study by Dr Melson, on a group of 5-year-olds, who were asked what they did when they were lonely, sad, angry, more than 40% mentioned turning to their pets. Pets make great friends as they are loyal and unconditional in their affection. 

3. Responsibility:

By caring for a pet, children learn about nurturing and taking responsibility for another living being. Although at all times, children will need adult supervision while caring for pets, the daily tasks of feeding, walking, grooming the pet, give children the opportunity of taking responsibility at a fairly young age. This again is linked to higher self-esteem as they build confidence from being able to nurture another living creature. 

4. Health Benefits:

Having a pet in the house lowers the risk of developing asthma or allergies in children. Kids with pets get more physical activity – to walk, run and play with a pet. Cuddling and petting an animal is therapeutic for many. It helps reduce anxiety and stress.

A study by the Children, Adolescent and Animals Research(CAAR) from the University of Edinburgh showed that growing up with pets has a positive influence on the health and well being of the child.

Research has shown that the presence of service dogs around children with Autism also helps in bringing down the level of cortisol, which is the stress response hormone present in the body. Pets can help children with special needs to reduce anxiety and calm themselves. 

5. Social Skills:

Pets are great icebreakers and thereby can help children ease out in social situations. Also by learning to train a pet, children learn patience and better impulse control. While it’s more common for girls to naturally experience nurturing by caring for younger siblings, caring for pets, gives boys what they see as a more acceptable way to practice parenting, thereby learning important life skills. Interaction with pets also helps children with Autism develop confidence and also better physical contact.

There’s no doubt on the benefits of your child growing up with a pet. That being said, make sure to do your research on what pet is suitable for your home and lifestyle. Adopt, don’t shop, stay away from illegal breeders and puppy mills. Bring home a pet only when you are ready to commit to caring for it for life. Once you open your heart and home to a pet, it won’t take long for you and your family to experience the joys and love of an animal.  

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An Open Letter to My Second-Born

Rona Pinto

Dear second baby of mine,

Anyone who isn’t a firstborn is completely aware of the second baby syndrome. It is the blatantly differential treatment meted out to the child who is born after the first one. My first baby had all my attention, time, fuss and coddling. You on the other hand, and I’m going to be brutally honest here, had barely any of it. Having complained about being treated similarly when I was growing up (and I was the third in the family, imagine that), in a few months after you were born, I recognized that I had evolved into the exact same kind of parent.

Here’s how starkly different parenting can look like for the first and the second born. For starters, I haven’t clicked 200 million pictures of you, roughly about 23 a day, as I did with your older brother. Neither did I fuss over settling you into a schedule that all babies supposedly love. That pregnancy journal I painstakingly made the first time around, I haven’t had the time to even look at it since you were born, forget making a whole new one for the time I was expecting you. 

While I meticulously observed and wrote down every meal timing, burp, poop, number of wet diapers etc of my firstborn, with you, we both were lucky if I found my hands free to pick you up the second you cried. I didn’t even buy you too many new clothes, because I had piles of hand-me-downs that were perfect for you. Gosh, at times, I wonder how unfair it has been, how much lesser I have fussed over you, I wonder if I was even a good mom. 

I stop to think of all the things I did differently this time. Yes, it’s true I didn’t click a photo every time you smiled or moved, but that’s because this time I had learnt to enjoy the moment and keep that camera aside. I didn’t fuss over your meal and sleep times as much, but that’s what made you such an easy baby. I could make plans for the family and you just played along. No, I didn’t have time to make that pregnancy journal, I spent that time with your older brother instead, so he’d look forward to welcoming you and boy did he love you at first sight. 

I’m glad I didn’t spend time buying you all those new clothes, I learnt to spend it on something less fleeting, for god knows you outgrew those clothes pretty quick. I didn’t worry if the place was clean enough, or if you were out crawling in the garden, or if the weather was warm or cold, we took you everywhere, without a worry and you loved every bit of it. I didn’t dash out to pick you up the second you whimpered because I was sure I knew to care for you without worrying and knowing exactly when you really needed something. 

My firstborn had a novice mom, unsure of her baby. We learnt everything on the go and figured it out along the way. While I did click pictures or every smile of his, I also incessantly worried every time he as much sneezed and got nervous if he refused a spoon of cereal. You, on the other hand, had a mom who was confident of caring for you, juggling two kids and everything else in between and still felt in control of everything. So dear second baby, it’s true, I wasn’t a good mom the second time around, I definitely was a better one. 

Love, 

Mom.

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What They Don’t’ Tell You About Being a First-Time Mother

Rona Pinto

Hello,

first-time mothers to be. Have you by now gotten used to friends or family touching your belly, talking to it and even kissing it maybe? Or do you now expect even strangers to give you their prediction of whether you are carrying a boy or a girl? They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what they don’t tell you is that a village also wants to be a part of each step of your pregnancy.

When I was expecting my first child, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean I knew my belly was going to expand five times its size and that I was expected to be hungry every couple of hours (such a myth by the way, since I was hungry every minute) but beyond that, all  I expected was a rosy baby shower, lots of pampering from the hubby and the liberties that came with being pregnant. My friends wouldn’t let me carry as much as even a 2 kg bag of groceries. 

What everyone told me about motherhood 

Everything about pregnancy and being a first-time mother seemed to be learning on the way. Once the initial euphoria of the baby announcement abated and the congratulatory messages flooded my inbox, I was in for whole new schooling about being a first-time mother. First came the warnings about those sleepless nights. Parents of little ones smirked as they told me, “Sleep now, you won’t have a peaceful night once the baby comes”. I wondered if my body had a sleep bank, where I could deposit hours of sleep now and avail the benefits later. (And no, it doesn’t just so you know). Then came the whole “Enjoy your free time now, you won’t have any once you have the baby”. 

Some told me to enjoy the last few months of enjoying my hobbies and doing what I love. It was apparently going to be a thing of the past soon. Not one to regret later, I baked a treat every day and strummed my guitar like it was going to be the last time. Every parent I met had only words of caution in store. My once confident self slowly began to lose its grip on me. 

With the constant bombardment of how I was headed for doomsday, I lay in bed one night, my baby bump taking the space of two, anguishing over what I had gotten myself into. I was convinced that no amount of baby books on pregnancy and parenting were going to prepare me enough for this new chapter in my life. (This part is true, nothing can fully prepare you for having a baby). I wondered why everyone was out there to scare me like I hadn’t already considered the big changes that a new baby would bring in my life.

What no one told me about motherhood.

Two months and one C-section later, I held my 6.5 pounds baby in my arms for the first time, mentally prepared for feeling uncertain and hopeless. Then I looked at my bony baby boy. He was a vision of peace and an assurance that God still loved the world. Yes, I had been warned about how the surgery would leave me feeling like my body had been ripped apart, but what they hadn’t told me was that my heart would explode with joy when I held my baby close to me. Those sleepless nights they cautioned me about? The first night we came home, I lay awake at 3 in the morning, just to watch how peaceful and beautiful my baby looked when he slept. I didn’t want to miss a minute of it. (Of course, as the weeks progressed and I found myself snoozing at 10 in the morning, I found a more suitable time in the day to admire his beauty. 

Yes, it was hard to know what made him cry or uncomfortable. Colic wasn’t fun when it showed up like an unwelcome guest at 6.45, every evening, for weeks. Some days, I felt like I just couldn’t do it. Only minutes later I’d find that my familiar voice which had made little conversations with him while he was in my womb, soothed him like magic. All those songs I played and sung for him those 9 months, seemed to calm him down in an instant. This is something that everyone missed telling me; that my baby and I would figure each other out as days went by. This was MY baby and I would know how to care for him.

Of course, the changes were huge, my “Me Time” had suddenly diminished, but no one had warned me about the joy I would feel when my baby first smiled at me, or about the time he’d giggle every time he heard me sneeze. What about the pride I would feel when he learnt to roll over or crawl to reach a toy or coo and call for me. It was something I had never experienced.

And what they should have told me before anything else

It gets better. It only gets better. As the weeks passed, the colic went away, my baby slept longer hours at night and gently fell into a workable schedule. This coupled with the sound of his giggle, his infectious smile, his calm cooing, all brought me a sense of wonder and elation I had never imagined before. 

All those warnings they gave me about the demanding changes a baby would bring were all, well mostly true. But I already knew about those. Don’t we all? It’s all we hear about when someone is having a baby. So if you are going to be first-time mom, I want to for once prepare you to experience a kind of love, that you didn’t know existed, a strength for getting through you didn’t know you even had within you and happiness that will surmount all the challenges a baby will bring. Good Luck. You are going to be okay.  

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Disability and language

29th October 2018

Language and the words we use affect every aspect of our lives. Some would even argue that political correctness has gone mad and is currently out of control. However, today I am focusing on a very small section of language- the words we use to describe disability. Granted, this isn’t a small area and I can already see that I have opened a can of worms, but this is my take on the large spectrum of disability and language.

Firstly, disability is not a bad word. You are allowed to say that someone has a disability and it is not something to be ashamed about. I’ve had people almost whisper the word ‘disabled’ at me as if I didn’t already know, or that saying it out loud would make the individual curl up in a ball and cry. Don’t worry, the fact I am disabled is not a secret! I believe sometimes people just don’t want to get things wrong and I appreciate that. In the words of Stella Young, you’ve been sold the lie that disability is a bad thing. When in reality it is hard work, draining and challenging. However, it is also beautiful, adventurous and eye- opening. I imagine being able- bodied is exactly the same.

You’re such an inspiration!

If you have a disability, then chances are that you have heard this phrase. Not only that, you may have even heard this phrase because you completed a very normal everyday task. Society believes that disability is a bad thing, if you find joy in life then you must be extraordinary. The truth is, disabled people are able to achieve highly and this isn’t ‘despite having a disability’ it is because we work hard and we are just as talented. I appreciate that people can be inspired by what we do, and that is absolutely fine. It is important to remember that a disability shapes our lives in ways that cannot be explained. Yet our actions should not be justified because of that disability. If I have a piece of writing that inspires you to write a blog, then I’m so happy that is the case! If I get out of bed or go food shopping, then this isn’t exactly something to be inspired by…

Something on a similar line is the way we may phase the word ‘disability’. You may hear differently- able, disAbility, superhuman or handicapped. Why not just say disability? By referring to us as differently- able you are merely marginalising disabled people. It suggests that the term disability should be uncomfortable and therefore should be avoided. What this does is further increase stigma against disabled people by discouraging discussion about disability and what it means to be disabled. It actually reinforces the idea that there is one normal way to be human, that there is one normal way to move, one normal way to communicate, one normal way to sense, one normal way to feel, one normal way to learn and one normal way to think. That deviating away from this normal makes you different, surely that makes everyone differently- able?

When talking to other campaigners there is a big thing around ‘ableist language’, but what actually is this? Basically, it is a word or phrase that is used intentionally or inadvertently that targets disabled people. Many of the everyday examples have been engrained within society and people will not realise the harm they are doing. These words, to name a few, can be ‘spaz’, crippled, having a fit or retard. Again, have you ever heard someone use these words in a positive context? Probably not! When in fact, you are technically referring to a disabled person or a disability that someone can have. I am not writing this to change the world or eradicate all ableist language. If I was to challenge everyone who makes comments like this I would never be able to have a normal conversation with anyone. I also know that nine times out of ten, these people mean no malice by their words. I appreciate this doesn’t make it right, and the disability activist in me cringes, it’s just about picking the right battles. All I can do, is to ask people to be mindful.

If you take one thing from this blog post then please be aware about what you say, but as long as it is said with good intentions then this is what matters most! Yes, disabled people want language to change, but we also appreciate that people won’t always get it right. We would rather you engage us in conversation rather than not talk to us at all! If all else fails, talk to us like a human being. We appreciate that.

~ Chloe x

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From darkness to light-Life has come a full circle!

JUNE 29, 2016

From darkness to light-life has come a full circle!

This story has been 24 years in its telling. Today, I feel validated enough to actually do the telling.

Dramatic it sounds, I know, but today as I held the first edition of Insight, a magazine in Braille edited and compiled by me, released on the birth anniversary of Helen Keller, a strange feeling of pride and elation took over. Quite like the joy one derives from holding their baby for the first time;  or watching the first flower bloom on a precious plant you had potted and tended to so lovingly.

This is where the telling of the story seems relevant so the whole dramatic nature of the title can be explained!

It isn’t often that life decides to roll over and play dead on you… or should I say turns on you so you wish you could be any place but stuck in the state you were. Yes, things happen, happen to everyone at some point of time in their lives. Bad things, life changing things that make it hard for you to even recognize who you once were.

Such an event occurred in my life almost 24 years back. Something that transformed me to a new person all together. At a point in life when everything was at its prime, when life was better than good, I was knocked down by an irreversible illness. When the mind strays even today, I wonder what could have perpetrated such a tsunami of events that in their power to destroy, wreaked havoc of the kind I’d never imagined possible. From being a healthy, active and happy girl of 21, I was reduced to a veritable vegetable. I deliberately use the word reduce because that is exactly what happened. In a series of catastrophic medical incidents that I term freaky, I lost my ability to see, hear, touch, taste and smell all in one go!

To say it changed the course of my life is like saying… “oops! Sorry, I lost my way home. Took the wrong turn there. Should have turned right instead of left!” there was none of the real me left. I now understand what the snake must feel like when it sheds skin and looks fresh, shiny and new. Only, I didn’t feel quite that way. What happened to me changed my physical and psychological state completely. It was years before I could find shades of the real me in there somewhere.

Through this state of near metamorphosis, many related events were responsible for how good, bad or terrible I felt. Through the hits and misses during treatments(more misses than hits judging by the end result), people came and people went. Friends, family stuck like glue. I had no idea so many people felt the pain of another’s sorrow until I saw unimaginable numbers coming to my hospital bed, holding my hand, sparing a hug or two, laughing and crying with me. I had chefs for friends… they saw I was fed what I wanted to eat. Teachers from the school I had left over seven years back came, the ayammas came with duas, doctors in the midst of friends and friends of friends ends peeped into the confidential files at the hospital to understand what was being done! Did I say I felt overwhelmed? Blessed beyond imagination? Well, I did! Never had I thought these sort of things happen. Yes, people fell sick, terminally too… sadly; but to be in a state that wouldn’t kill you, but render you disabled for the rest of your living, breathing years was a thought I’d never ever dreamed of in my worst moments. But, it was here! Real as a heart attack(pardon that one.. confuses the illnesses a bit!), but it was just that real!

So, now the deed was done. I was deaf-blind(for a brief period in that state), couldn’t smell or taste anything and had a patchy sense of touch. The hospital said, “this is what we could do, she is young and could recover!” Ah! The glimmer of hope; however false shines so bright! I was just like everyone else. Clung to it until I squashed even that out of any recognizable form and slowly watched that bright light snuff itself out. Now, left with a life in front of me; one I had no idea what to do with; the true devastation set in! I was a basket case, a horror to be around and badly behaved too I think. Years later, I am not proud of being who I was then, but when there’s little else you can do with yourself, you allow all the emotions to rule.

Slowly, as the truth and magnitude of starting afresh in a totally new state set in, the resistance and denial took hold. There was no way I wanted to live a life like that. Fortunately for me, I did begin hearing partially after a point in time. I begged, cajoled, bargained with whichever God, human or energy I could think of. Nope! They all believed the new me had to live just like that. It had a new life and destiny of its own and that was that!

After this proclamation life threw at me, began the second act that was my life

! truly, looking back now, it seems like my life is divided in two clear parts. One before I went blind and after…

Beginning the next phase of my life was more of a struggle than I anticipated. A lot of it was self-imposed I now see from my perch of knowledge and experience. How that could have been different at the time is something we’ll never know. When the mention of rehab came up, it was like someone was pushing me towards the gallows and I’d been relegated to a life of permanent imprisonment in my blindness. This was not something I was going to give into easily. Much blood and tears, attempts from well meaning friends and family alike only brought them up against a wall of denial; so high; seemed I’d never get over to the other side!

Oh! The drama continues I realize as I write this. I just have to make this one more dramatic analogy before I embark on the road ahead! I always feel like I must be the mythical phoenix… that, after being reduced to ashes, rose once again to great heights and freedom! Yes! That is how it all went ahead.

The most dreaded word that kept popping up and around me from time to time was: Braille! Some in hushed voices around me; others not so subtly. But then, I had to learn to read and write again. This was a dreadful first step towards accepting my blindness. More than one person had been suggested, which was vehemently tossed aside by me. Finally a brave friend, braver than most decided it was time! Yes, I guess it was time since I complied to meet with the person who finally turned my life around in more than one way. I remember distinctly my first meeting with him. A blind man himself, he was full of confidence and had a clear sense of direction for me.

Now his idea of directing my life was nothing like what I would have wanted for myself. But then, that time for denials was past; I was bored and fed up of being unhappy all the time. Having someone read the news out to me was alright for a certain time, but then it got old real fast. A voracious reader, the inability to read and write was more debilitating than anything else. After some more discussions the moment finally arrived when I touched my first set of Braille dots. Was it earth-shattering? You bet it was! I remember distinctly tears rolling down my face when those first cluster of dots made me realize the way forward was here! But, how on earth was I to make any sense of just a cluster of raised dots? In my inimitable resistant to change way, I grumbled and complained all the way. Did anyone listen or pay heed? Nope! They all looked the other way and I had no other choice but to continue grumbling and reading.

This was a time when computers were still not what they are today. not everyone had one and neither was the screen reader as developed as it is now. I remember one computer in the organization I went to which was used primarily for office work. There was some specialized software which was going to help translate text to Braille which was later to be printed on the machine there. Now, did I care about all of it at the time? You guessed right! Not one bit… I was too busy feeling sorry for my tortured state and the compulsion of having to learn Braille! Since I still had residual damage due to my patchy sense of touch, I could not use my right forefinger to read. This meant schooling my left one to do the job. Now do you get the picture? An uphill task for someone who was sufficientlyambidextrous.

Anyway, I did eventually get on with it. Reading Braille after learning the contractions and memorizing the patterns of dots forming different letters and words, my confidence grew. Not that I would have won any speed reading contests, but I was well on the road to literacy once again. Writing was another challenge. Holding the stylus in the correct manner, fitting the paper onto the slate and ensure it didn’t move and make patterns of its own free will was a nerve wracking task. Added to which when your teacher is a task master who laughs every time you crib, poke fun at you when you said your hand and finger hurt. He was relentless… pushed all my right and wrong buttons. Became my friend, mentor and guide. He will be most proud I am writing this today. it is to him I dedicate this sense of freedom and pride I feel in myself.

Eventually I did learn all there was to learn and what did I do with it? You’ll never believe it… I became a tutor myself! Doing what? Teaching Braille! I am smiling wide as I write. The man who taught me has never missed one opportunity to tell me and anyone who’ll listen, “this is the girl who cried the first time she started learning to read and write Braille. Look at her today, she is teaching others with such perfection.”

My road to freedom finally opened up when I started reading the Reader’s Digest in Braille. The thrill of reading something I did all the time cannot be expressed. There was more, much more to read. Since I was working with the organization that had rehabilitated me, I had access to a whole lot of material to read from the National library for the blind, London. I was thrilled. Alive once again for the first time in years.

There were many other skills learned along the way. Each making me more confident, sure of my world and prepare me to live independently once again. What had I gained here that was more precious than anything else? My sense of self and dignity! I was no longer a vegetable. I used my mind, hands and body to do things I wanted to do. Sure, there was always a degree of dependence; but, this was inter-dependence and symbiotic in its nature. There will always be times and instances when I return to the frustration of not being able to do things, simple things on my very own. But those come and go just as quickly. The new me had finally emerged! I was the new me, just as life and destiny had decreed.

While Braille is being used lesser with the advancement in screen reading technology, it has never lost its place as the script used by the blind person. Just as any amount of electronic texts can never replace print on paper; so can’t Braille be replaced. My fingers are slower than before on the paper, but it is just as sure as it was eighteen years ago when I first learned it.

This is why, when an organization working with the blind asked me to edit and compile a magazine in Braille, I was both thrilled and touched. There are many proficient Braille readers around me, ones who could fit the bill. But upon the suggestion of friends and the confidence in my being able to deliver, the responsibility came to me. To say I was excited and happy, was putting it mildly. This was serious business. There are many Braille readers who look forward to reading good articles. Being a reader myself who missed reading magazines all the time, I wanted to ensure there was something for everyone in it. Insight was thus born. After a lot of work and contributions from fellow writers, the magazine was finally complete. What the readers think of it still remains to be seen. The process of learning has only just begun and I am certain the road ahead will be an interesting one.

This afternoon my copy of Insight in Braille was delivered to my doorstep. Receiving it from the postman felt like receiving a citation for the work I’d done in my life as a blind person!(yes, drama once again! But bear with me… it was momentous!) I ripped through the packing and got down to the business of reading through right away! Would I have done it all those years ago? Would it have had the meaning it did today, then? No, to both the questions. Today, I see the script as an achievement, one that is unparalleled. It has brought me to a place of understanding and identity I’d never have known otherwise.

My life has come a full circle! I am finally where I’d have wanted to be all those years back when I’d only just begun!

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World Braille Day

Jan 4, 2019 · 1 min read

Today is World Braille Day, and time to recognise how braille has empowered visually impaired people across the globe. Here’s appreciating all of the pioneers who promoted standardised braille and economical production techniques. It’s thanks to all their efforts that braille is today more easily available than ever before, though we still have a long way to go in making all our information and spaces inclusive.

Book printed in Braille.

Read about how Braille was invented.

If braille was the first step towards academic inclusion and accessibility for visually impaired, then tactile graphics are the next step towards more complete access.

Tactile graphics help a blind person perceive images, pictures, diagrams, and understand concepts better. It goes beyond braille, which is largely textual information. We are working towards creatinginteractive tactile graphics for early learners, and are advocating its importance in building inclusive societies.Let’s begin to demand #MoreThanBraille for children with vision loss.

Tactile graphics on a book, and flashcards with braille numbers.
#worldbrailleday #tactilelearning #earlylearning

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Tactile Cards for Nursery Rhymes

Dec 28, 2018 · 2 min read

After several usability testing sessions with with very young children, we recognised the need to create introductory tactiles, where the focus would simply be on making children comfortable with tactile forms, textures and learn to interpret them with some guidance.

We also observed that many blind children respond enthusiastically to music, just like any sighted child. We decided to create a musically led introduction to basic tactile shapes. Our choice of nursery rhymes was based on whether there was a key element or character that we could represent as a tactile form, and whether the tactile would add value to children.

For example, itsy bitsy spider made for an excellent choice as an opportunity to introduce children to the interesting form of a spider. Just in this case, we refrained from adding detailed descriptions and leave room for the teacher/parent to focus on getting children to be curious about tactile textures and forms.

Other songs in the pack:

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Jingle Bells

Wheels of the Bus Go Round and Round

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Five Little Ducks Went Out to Play

Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall

Hickory Dickory Dock

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Order your set here!
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Up Next: 2019

Dec 28, 2018 · 3 min read

As a young team taking a product (which has been a couple years in the making) to market, there’s a lot of excitement in the air. Here’s a summary of our next steps, goals, and planned launches you can look forward to.

Read about our journey through 2018.

Partnerships and Collaborations
Maharashtra Government

We’re working with the Education Ministry, supported by the State Innovation Cell, to create multi-sensory learning material for class I Math and language. These products will pilot in government supported blind schools in the state. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to build in close association with the government, and to learn as much about operations as we’ve learnt about creating learning resources.

Learn English Through Stories (LETS Project)

Supported by Tata Centre in IIT Bombay, and led by Prof. Alka Hingorani, LETS facilitates language learning in resource constrained environments. They’ve created a series of illustrated books and accompanying audio — recorded readings of the books set to original music. The Tactopus app delivers audio contextually as a reader flips through the books, keeping up with them. This way, a reader’s attention can remain on the beautiful illustrations and print text, while the supporting tech fades to the background of the experience.

The LETS team plans to pilot this learning system in community libraries in early 2019.

Product Pipeline

We intend to focus on early learning needs of children with or without disabilities, with emphasis on making the experience playful and engaging for all. We’re trying to achieve a balance of content, between a) curriculum-based learning objectives that schools and teachers will need, and b) content based on life-skills, such as maps and navigation, currency and monetary transactions, and travel. As always, we’re open to collaborating, so talk to us if you have any ideas we can co-create.

Team

We’re hiring designers, developers and project managers to keep up with our plans in product development, sales and marketing.

Right at this moment, we have a software development intern from SASTRA University developing our next game. We’re working with teams in IIM Bangalore and IIM Calcutta, who are doing market research and price models for us. We recently hired a community manager who has experience working with disability rights, activism and has managed awareness campaigns in the past. The energy and enthusiasm we see in each of these people makes the founders’ passion pale in comparison 🙂

Check out our careers page for more details, and do share it with anybody who may be looking for such opportunities. Here are links to apply to open positions:

Product Design

Interaction Design

Content Development

Back-end Software Development

Project Management

Administration

Talk about Inclusion

In case you missed it, we’ve got tactile holiday cards that you can send out to start conversations about inclusion and accessibility. Wish you happy holidays!

Order your cards here: tinyurl.com/singingcards

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The Story of 2018

Dec 28, 2018 · 2 min read

It has been an incredible year for us, and we’d love to share some details and lots of gratitude.

The year started with a huge shift in product direction, from initially pursuing a hardware based solution, we moved to a smartphone app. The product intent remained staunchly the same — to provide an interactive audio-tactile learning experience for children, inclusive of those with visual impairment.

We’ve learnt along the way, that the experience we’ve created adds value to children with developmental delays and learning disabilities as well. The fact that it’s screen-free and texturally rich, makes it an indulgent multi-sensory learning product for any toddler or preschooler, with or without disabilities.

Here are some highlights from our fairly eventful year.

We’re now at a critical, exciting juncture. With the experience of having created content and commercially launched four products now, we have more confidence about addressing the learning needs of eager young minds.

It’s also been about a year of being associated with Social Alpha and Capital First, whose guidance and mentorship during this period pushed us through several iterations of business modelling. With continued seed and incubation support from the able teams, we’re looking forward to the coming years, bigger goals and more exciting challenges.

Read about our hopes and plans for 2019.

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Yes, I’m a person with disability. And I’m proud

Posted by L. Subramani

Bio: My name is Subramani, a journalist for 20 years living in Bangalore, India. I became totally blind aged 18 due to a genetic retinal condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa which transformed my life as a teenager. Before the onset of the condition, I was an able-bodied teenager with dreams of graduating as an accountant. But after going blind, I aspired to be a journalist and after five years of freelance writing, became first a reporter and later a copy editor for Deccan Herald, one of the famous English dailies in India and the most famous in my town. Now, I am one of only two or probably three totally blind journalists in the employ of a newspaper in India. In 2014, my memoir “Lights Out: The True Story Of A Man’s Descent Into Blindness” (ISBN: 13: 9788184003512) was published by Random House India. The memoir dealt with how the emotionally traumatizing retinal condition posed a serious challenge to my life and hurt my family that struggled to cope with the idea that I was gradually going blind and would one day be completely blind. “Lights Out” helped several hundred suffering gradual vision loss and their families, some of whom reached out to me to thank me for the book. Reviewers and interviewers praised the book for showing the painful process of slow blindness, its debilitating effects and from the depths from which I had to claw back into leading a normal life. I’m working on my second memoir. Reach out to me at: lsubramani.visa@gmail.com

Here’s a common experience among people with disability.

Our friends and well-wishers squirm when we make a direct reference about our disability.

Like this gentleman, who was quite alarmed when I used the word “I see” in a casual and, without a doubt, figurative way. “How can you see?” he asked me, as if seeing could be only physical and restrictive.

“Yes, I can see,” I told him, “the problem is, you think seeing is only in the eyes.”

For far too long, people with disability had struggled to break free of the stigma and stereotyping. Despite education, many of us weren’t truly in the mainstream because we needed the so-called ‘special tools’ to read or write. Technology has now solved that problem.

Now, we could communicate (read, write and express ourselves) through the social media platforms, showcase our interests and motivations to the world without feeling the pressure to prove ourselves.

Like this: I can write and you can read, without letting my disability come in the way.

Also, this is the technology age; the age of enlightenment, which lets us celebrate our uniqueness as human beings and use our identity to create an inclusive society. We need not be apologetic about who we are. We get more opportunities to talk about our life experiences with universal messaging.

The one common thing that binds all of us (able-bodied or disabled) is the fact that we all face life challenges. In fact, people with disability are in a unique position as problem solvers since we face far steeper and at times unforeseen challenges. We’re best suited to be troubleshooters.

It’s quite possible therefore to call myself a person with disability and mean it in a positive sense. And why not? Disability hasn’t made me inferior, even if some people think it does. Obviously, a few in the society would never get it, but that shouldn’t be my problem.

And I bring this almost like a newsflash to many of my brothers and sisters with disability: never be apologetic about your disability. It’s not the result of sin or the punishment bestowed on you by god: it’s just that god (or nature), in its wisdom, has designed you quite uniquely and it must definitely be proud of your success. No one can question your survivability in tougher conditions.

And you should use disability as a positive identity. As people who’ve learnt (the hard way) to look at life as half full, it behooves us to spread the positive message and expose the positive side of disability. Yes, the limitations are obvious, but not always negative!

So, celebrate your disability. And include people of all races, societies, countries and identities in your celebration. We don’t need uniformity to achieve unity.

Yes, I’m a person with disability. And I’m proud