A ray of hope for autistic kids

Autistic kids and their parents at SDM Mangala Jyothi Integrated School being taught by autism educationalist Ashwini H. DH Photo/Author

Frustrated parents are unable to understand their autistic child’s problem and may often resort to physical violence to stop their child’s adamant and repetitive behavior, making the matter worse.

In an effort to help the autistic children, SDM Mangala Jyothi Integrated School has started an autism wing. The school, a unit of Shree Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara Education Society, is the only autism school in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi district that works with an integrated concept and strives hard to bring the autistic kids to mainstream.

Speaking to City Herald, SDM Mangala Jyothi Integrated School Administrative Officer Ganesh Bhat, says that the wing was started in June 2010 and a special autism centre was inaugurated in February 2011, which provides comprehensive care to the autistic kids.

Autistic kids usually lack communication skills, socialising skills and show repetitive and self injurious behavior though many a times, they look normal and may have an IQ on par with a normal child. In the autism centre, the children are provided speech therapy, behavioural therapy, occupational therapy, daily living skill training and musical therapy, says Ganesh.

He further adds that about 6 children are enrolled in the autism centre at present and are daily accompanied by their parents.

“Children spend more time with their parents than in school. It is necessary to involve the parents in the training so that they can follow the therapy methods at home,” he says.

Integrated concept

The concept of integrated education is providing education to disabled children along with normal children under a common roof. Studies reveal that the autistic children can be brought to mainstream with integrated education, he says.

Hence in SDM Mangala Jyothi Integrated School, special training is given to develop autistic children to the level of normal children and once equipped with skills, the children will be admitted to 1st standard and till 10th standard, they will be provided with education in an integrated approach, informs Ganesh. “My 8-year-old son Prajwal used to show speech problems as a kid and used to not interact unlike other children of his age.
When I approached M V Shetty School for speech therapy I came to know that Prajwal was autistic. When the autistic centre was opened in SDM Mangala Jyothi Integrated School, I admitted Prajwal. Now Prajwal is showing improvements. Earlier was not responding to anything, but now he responds,” says Prajwal’s mother Vinaya.

“My son Anush has epileptic attacks so I thought that his strange behaviour was due to the attacks. Later, I came to know he is autistic with features of echolalia. He used to also show aggressive behavior. Now I use the therapy methods taught to me in the school and also follow a strict time table. He behaves better now,” says Sandhya, mother of Anush.

Drupesh who was restless and hyper is showing improvements after being admitted to the school, says Shubhalakshmi, his mother.

Autism Educationalist in the School Ashwini H says that she follows a fixed curriculum which involves study, play and exercise. The autistic kids usually like everything precise and are adjusted to a time table. If they miss their schedule, they get irritated and demand for it.

“In school, we tend to children’s behaviour problems especially aggression. We involve parents as well and this has helped them to understand the disorder. We mainly teach children to identify objects using pictures. Personally, I feel that an integrated concept is much better as in special schools, there are chances the children try to imitate other special children,” says Ashwini.

Parental counseling is regularly done in the school. Apart from autism, the school also caters to the need of hearing impaired, mentally retarded, learning disability, physical handicap and visual impaired children.

The autism school is not collecting fees from its students. There are plans to extend the autism centre in the coming years by admitting more children. People are also welcome to visit the school and also approach if they have disabled children. One can contact 0824-2262030 or visit the school situated in Vamanjoor, says Ganesh.

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