Building Bridges of Hope

Iris C F Gomes

June 2005 saw the laying down of the foundation of a charitable trust that has come to embody hope for children with learning and developmental disabilities. Now, with its reach beyond Goa and even India, the Sethu Trust sees no dearth of support for its various endeavours. The trust was championed by six women, namely the founder trustees Elvina Menezes, Ameeta Mascarenhas, and Sneha Bhandare and developmental paediatrician Dr Nandita De Souza, special educator Yogita Joshi, and speech and language therapist Anjali Nunes. As the Sethu Centre for Child Development and Family Guidance has grown in leaps and bounds, the veritable ‘bridge’ that teams up with other like organisations to bring the best solutions to children with developmental problems and their parents consequently has had to move premises twice, settling at the moment in a rented bungalow at Socorro, Porvorim. The Centre has today 5 trustees and over 15 professionals and other staff.

Sethu provides assessment facilities to children suspected of having developmental issues and makes a diagnosis based on the child’s developmental milestones, abilities, temperament, etc. The diagnosis leads to specialised treatment and training from the corresponding therapists. Parents are included in the process as closely as possible to help them understand their children and maintain positive behaviours in the home environment.

Counselling is offered to children grappling with problems like low self-esteem, anger management issues, suicidal thoughts, struggles with interpersonal relationships and so on. The sessions can be individual ones or family sessions depending on the child’s needs. Aside from counselling, Sethu also has child psychotherapy sessions.

Children with speech issues such as lisping, stammering and pronunciation problems and those struggling with language learning are offered assessment and intervention by speech therapists. Autism, Down syndrome, hearing impairment and cerebral palsy make the use of language difficult to impossible in the severest cases. Children with these disabilities and disorders are taught to use AACs (Alternative and Augmentative Communications). This includes communication techniques that use pictures and/or words like PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or apps like Avaz and Proloquo2Go.

Occupational therapy aims at using tasks and occupational exercises to enable a child to live as close to a normal life as he or she can by realising his or her full potential. Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), dyspraxia, autism spectrum disorder and ADD/ADHD are some of the problems for which children are given occupational therapy.

Sethu has done much for children with autism by creating intervention plans based on the children’s needs and taking into consideration each family situation. The use of developmental approaches and features of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), TEACCH, Pivotal Response Training (PRT), Discrete Trial Training (DTT) etc, allows for development of play and communication skills, and helps moderate any behavioural issues. Parent and caregiver participation is encouraged so that they can learn the techniques and use them in other environments. Special training programmes for families of children with autism are provided: Aarambh, (5-day period) gives training on how to support autistic children and Asha (3-month period) is an early intervention training programme for parents and their toddlers.  Teenagers with autism can avail of a social skills training programme called PEERS.

The Centre offers remedial education to children with reading, writing and spelling difficulties, specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

Sethu has its own computerised clinical database which holds information regarding its clients in terms of socio-demographic data, symptoms, diagnoses, treatment and results. The Centre has been part of a research team to find out the percentage of students transitioning from Marathi or Konkani medium primary schools to English medium middle schools able to read and write in English with meaning.

Inclusive education is one of Sethu’s primary outreach programmes under the banner of Tarang. Inclusive education helps normalise everyday life for children with disabilities and primes them for confident social interaction. The children without disabilities learn to understand individual differences and develop a heightened sense of empathy towards those who are unlike them. Tarang associates with schools that are eager to introduce inclusive education by training teachers, staff and parents. Teachers and staff are then able to detect students with learning disabilities and prepare an individualised educational plan (IEP) for learning. All this is accomplished without interrupting normal activity in class.

English is Fun is a Sethu programme that teaches English as a second language to children in government primary schools where the medium of instruction is Konkani or Marathi.

Parents of children with ADHD have the From Disorder to Discipline programme to learn more about the condition and cope with it. Gnyandeep is a preschool teachers’ training programme which has begun to focus on teachers of balwadis. Class Act, a programme for teachers, helps them learn to control behaviour in class and learn about childhood sexuality, stress management for teachers, inclusive education and so on. The Centre offers an institutional fellowship in Developmental and Behavioural Paediatrics

There are numerous workshops held by Sethu. These focus on various issues including sexuality (teaching children to be safe), awareness of learning disabilities, effective parenting techniques, dealing with adolescent issues, etc.

Over 6500 children and their families have benefited from Sethu’s multidisciplinary services since 2005. The number of clients keeps growing and with that the need for space. The Centre is in the process of collecting funds for its new home and has a goal of ₹5,00,00,000. You can use this link to donate, and visit the Seth Centre website here


Phone Number:  +91 77200 13749