SAMADHAN: Removing Barriers for Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Children with intellectual disabilities are particularly hard-hit by poverty and all of the barriers that come with it: lack of access to education, employment, nutrition, and overall health. Persistent exposure to "toxic" stress, including extreme poverty, can damage the developing brain and result in lifelong difficulties with learning, behavior, and physical and mental health. Even if services for these children are available in a given community, families that live below the poverty line are unable to afford accessible education and therapy services. 

Since 1981, India-based NGO SAMADHAN has worked to change this. SAMADHAN is dedicated to establishing an infrastructure of accessible services for children with intellectual disabilities who hail from families below the poverty line. Its work includes promoting early detection, supporting caregivers, and providing affordable therapy and educational services.



Providing services to young children who either experience or are at risk for developmental delays has been shown to positively change children's developmental trajectories and improve outcomes. By focusing its services particularly on young children, SAMADHAN aims to provide effective, less costly interventions. These enable the children to live a fairly independent life and access education and thus bring to an end the vicious generational cycle of poverty. 

11-year-old Ishant with his mother and speech therapist at SAMADHAN

NGOsource's Role

SAMADHAN first underwent the equivalency determination (ED) process with NGOsource in late 2018 at the request of the Ford Foundation. Sumathi Morgan, the executive director of SAMADHAN, comments that the ED process helped SAMADHAN "meet our funding woes by creating more visibility and more chances of U.S. funders approaching it [NGOsource's ED services] as it involves less paperwork and allows the reuse of the legal analysis gathered."

This is just what happened for SAMADHAN soon after it went through the initial process. Another funding partner requested an additional ED for SAMADHAN. As seen in this case, NGOsource grantmaker members like this benefit from the due diligence carried out by others. When they wish to fund an NGO that has already been certified by another grantmaker member, grantmakers can request subsequent EDs immediately for only $250

ED in Action

The funding that SAMADHAN received after going through the ED process supported SAMADHAN's work in providing therapeutic services focused on sensory integration and pre-vocational training to children with special needs. The work ultimately supports children in accessing mainstream education. 

In addition to this project, over its 40-year history, SAMADHAN has overall made a huge impact on children who experience developmental delays and their families. Strategies have included using puppet theater, street plays, health camps, workshops, and seminars. SAMADHAN also conducted a house-to-house survey program to collect data and counsel families of children with developmental disabilities to seek early intervention. A major takeaway from the survey program has been valuing the support of women from the community and mothers of the intellectually disabled by training them to work as partners. Through SAMADHAN's efforts, the community perception of intellectual disabilities has also changed in the region, and over 3,000 children have received and benefitted from the organization's services. 

SAMADHAN is not done with its work yet, and it will continue to support children with developmental delays in reaching their full potential in the years to come. 

Top photo: 9-year-old Sneha during her counseling session at SAMADHAN with her mother 

All images and video used with permission from SAMADHAN ©2019.