Located in the heart of South Mumbai’s Fort district on its vintage Dadabhai Naoroji Road, the mint-new The Aditya Birla Integrated School (TABIS, estb. 2014) has quickly earned a good reputation for providing students with learning disabilities high-quality inclusive education.
This NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling)-affiliated K-12 co-ed day school admitted its first batch of 140 students (selected after detailed psycho-educational evaluation and assessment by clinical psychologists) last year. Students are mentored by 25 highly qualified full-time educators including occupational, speech and pet (animal) therapists, psychiatrists, shadow teachers and special educators who administer individualised learning programmes.
TABIS is promoted by the Aditya Birla Education Trust (estb. 2009), the philanthropic arm of the Mumbai-based Aditya Birla group of companies (aggregate annual revenue: Rs.240,000 crore), which has promoted and manages 42 schools with an aggregate enrolment of 45,000 students, and 18 hospitals across India.
The objective of TABIS is to provide world-class education which accelerates awareness and acceptance of children with different learning or emotional needs. To this end, we have India’s best special needs teachers and experts working with us, supported by state-of-the-art academic and co-curricular infrastructure and research facilities. Students are continuously assessed for their motor skills, eye-hand co-ordination, visual sequencing and scanning using the best equipment and aids. Speech and language therapy is also provided to students to enable them to overcome stammering, stuttering, and develop vocabulary and expressive skills, says Neerja Birla, an alumna of Derby University (UK) and chairperson of the Aditya Birla Trust.
The school offers its inclusive education programme to students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and ADHD, and a differentiated learning programme to students with development delays and autism spectrum disorder. œOur mission is to provide students who might be ridiculed and misunderstood in mainstream schools, a caring environment staffed with qualified professionals to nurture their potential and develop them into confident, contributing members of society, says Dr. Zirak Marker, a child and adolescent psychiatry specialist formerly with the Westchester Medical Centre, Valhalla, New York and former head of a special needs school, and CEO of TABIS.
To fulfil the mission of delivering holistic integrated education, the TABIS management has liberally invested in academic, remedial and co-curricular facilities. The compact TABIS campus offers six speech and language therapy labs, two occupational therapy and sensory integration gyms, a library, an art room, 18 temperature-controlled classrooms, audio-visual aids, computer lab, multi-purpose hall, science labs, staff room and counselling rooms topped by a terrace which offers a bird’s eye view of Mumbai’s Fort area.
Co-curricular and sports education are provided with serious intent to enable every child to develop her multiple intelligences through music, art, dance, dramatics, judo, games, and a book club. In August 2015, a TABIS students team will participate in The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the spirit of healthy competition is developed through inter-house games and athletics tournaments. Moreover, the school has signed up with Mumbai-based The Sports Gurukul for sports and games coaching.
Counseling services are provided to students as well as parents. Most parents who come to our school are embarrassed by the learning and other difficulties their children face, and reluctant to accept the situation. We provide research-backed information and counseling to parents to reassure them their children will learn and develop their special intelligences in TABIS which is fully equipped to serve their needs, says Piya Marker, director-head of school. A special needs education postgraduate of SNDT University, Mumbai with 17 years of experience, Piya served as principal of the JBCN Pan Academy prior to her appointment as director of TABIS last year.
Adds Birla who has been intensely involved in getting TABIS off the ground: This is perhaps the most well equipped school in India for students with learning disabilities. I believe given customised education, children with learning difficulties can develop into successful, productive and socially responsible individuals who can make a substantial contribution to industry, business and society. I am proud to report we have built a world-class centre of learning for all our students.
With the TABIS management preparing to further enrich the school™s curriculum with research, extra-curricular activities and internships, this state-of-the-art institution is well on its way to becoming a leader in special education in India. To this end, the school has tied up with various corporate houses to provide internships for students to become acquainted with sales, marketing, design, finance, events management and human resource development skills.
We have also introduced a transition level or a foundation year programme for incoming students who need extra help before they enter class I. I believe all children have the potential to overcome their learning disabilities. Our commitment is to unlock that potential through acceptance, empathy, confidence, scholarship and provision of an enabling learning environment, says Birla.