Just dif­fer­ent, not less

The founder of a cen­tre for the autis­tic says he fo­cuses on what’s pos­si­ble for chil­dren with spe­cial needs

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page -

Fr Thomas Felix, founder di­rec­tor, Cen­tral In­sti­tute on Men­tal Re­tar­da­tion, Thiru­van­tha­pu­ram, was in Delhi where 11 artistes, in­clud­ing teenagers, with autism per­formed songs and classical dances at the National Mu­seum. Ex­cerpts from an in­ter­view with HT Ed­u­ca­tion: Does autism af­fect more boys than girls in In­dia? I can’t au­then­ti­cate that. How­ever, what one would like to say is that an autis­tic child can be mean­ing­fully trained. You can see a 13-year-old autis­tic girl rid­ing horses. Ini­tially, we force­fully put her on a horse. Now she rides on her own. Rid­ing is a tool to de­velop psy­choso­cial lan­guage. But peo­ple at large la­bel them. Be­cause of this teach­ers will not try (mak­ing an ef­fort with the child) be­yond a point.

If one child is de­vel­oped, then our coun­try will de­velop. They have some lim­i­ta­tions, just as I am wear­ing glasses. We have a lim­i­ta­tion, so we wear glasses. How should this be done - in sep­a­rate schools? They should be put in nor­mal schools, not sep­a­rate schools. There’s no need for a sep­a­rate school. In the same school, you can have spe­cial classes, es­pe­cially mod­elled, with bas­ket­ball, swim­ming pool, and lec­ture fa­cil­i­ties etc for ex­po­sure. They need to be given multi-sen­sory in­puts of touch, lis­ten, taste, and see — these de­velop their fac­ul­ties.

That’s why we have an agri­cul­ture univer­sity for agri-ther­apy them. Cul­ti­va­tion in­volves soil, water, min­er­als, and tools. You touch the plants, tools etc. So, the more they are ex­posed, the more they learn. What’s the mind­set of par­ents of autis­tic chil­dren? Par­ents’ mind­set is also very good. But for par­ents to be ef­fec­tive change-mak­ers, they should be made knowl­edge- able. Other­wise, they’ll not be able to in­te­grate the chil­dren in the fam­ily and in the com­mu­nity. Make the mother knowl­edge­able and com­pe­tent. For this we have a home school kit. We de­vel­oped the 3 C (com­pre­hen­sion, com­pe­tence and cre­ativ­ity) con­cept us­ing shapes as the medium.

THINKSTOCK

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