Innovating through a mutual learning experience

Innovating through a mutual learning experience

An experience of the Unified Pair from the Pink City, Aaynu and Nakul

Inclusion for me is growing together through common personal and social experiences. I too, experienced it up-close during the course of the Innovation Grant project – Mental Health & Wellness

Conducting a research on the impact of sports in the lives of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, exposed me to the vast platform that Special Olympics has built all over the world as well as in India. `There was an amazing willingness amongst the Athletes and their families to share information and also to reach out to the general community uninhibited. I had no idea that there existed such a large platform in India itself. At the outset of the research, it was my discussions with Aaynu which made me frame the relevant questions that were later designed to fit the study.

However, the journey has not been free of challenges. Initially we took time to adjust with each other. I felt that he was too casual while I was not. Through the support of our mentor , Dr SK Meena, we learnt to understand each other’s idiosyncrasies and we gradually fell in sync. I observed Aaynu’s dedication , his motivation and the ease with which he managed to draw a larger audience towards his message. While we worked together, I realised that this project supported us very significantly in turning the spotlight on ‘Mental Health’ which I feel, often gets overshadowed by ‘Physical fitness’. While Physical skills and growth by sports and leadership, received much attention, mental health, behaviour and emotional health somewhere fell short of it. This is the situation when we embarked on this journey. But, with the occurrence of Covid 19, perspectives have changed. ‘Mental Health’ , now, is treated nearly at par with physical fitness.

Additionally, I got a chance to work with the State office of Special Olympics, bringing on board more Youth leaders and NGOs (Non-Govt Organizations)

As I am writing this in discussion with Aaynu, my Athlete partner ,in this project, I would like to pen down his input as well. For him the greatest contribution of this project has been to bring him knowledge about topics that he never had given thought to until now, like, Mental Health. Also reminiscing our participation at the Lead to Include workshop held in Singapore in December 2019 , the experience sharing with persons of different nationalities expanded his perspective, taught him new skills and inspired him overall , to follow the title in its true sense. Inclusion, he feels, comes through awareness. if awareness is lacking how would we know what exists. He is concerned about persons with Special needs being often over-protected by their family members. He feels that the parents should not hold them back but trust them and liberate them to take decisions , even if they do not turn out to be right.

I agree with Aaynu here, my onward plan to hold Mental Health sessions with People with Intellectual Disability is to help them express themselves without hesitation and be driven by their thoughts and actions. I recall Aaynu coming to me for solutions to problems earlier, but now, he is prepared to solve the challenges faced by the other athletes. Says Aaynu, “Dr Meena’s guidance on the subject helped me understand the topic; working with Nakul, I have learnt a methodical planning of events . I would like to independently initiate events. I am confident to do so.”

Nakul Kaushik, is a 4th year student of Occupational therapy in Mahatma Gandhi University of Medical Science and Technology, Jaipur and 3rd year Clinical Psychology from IGNOU. Aaynu is a Badminton Medallist from the Abu Dhabi Games 2019 and is an active member of the National Athlete Input Council. Beginning January 2021, he has started working as a Coach with the Jaipur Sports Academy, training mainstream children in Badminton, every day of the week barring Sundays.

Both, Nakul and Aaynu are residents of Jaipur, the pink city of the State of Rajasthan and are the Unified pair who together implemented the Innovation Project- Strengthening Mental Health and Wellness mentored by Dr SK Meena Principal & Professor, Mahatma Gandhi Occupational Therapy College, Jaipur