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News from DIYA’s intervention centre for children with AUTISM, Tirunelvelli, South India
January-February-March 2014

Sincere apologies that this edition of our newsletter has been delayed by a couple of months. However, we are now here in Tirunelvelli and are very excited to see how things are getting on for ourselves.

Christmas celebrations

Diya celebrated Christmas with a little drama about the birth of Jesus and presents. The children were very pleased with the presents they were given and some still carry it around in their book bags and are very pleased to show it off!


Staff

I was pleased to hear from parents that the centre itself has gained a reputation of quality and integrity. We now have a speech therapist which has been a huge blessing to our children. We have, however,been informed that the Government plans to recruit more teachers and speech therapists for their programmes. Government jobs continue to be the popular choice over working for NGO's as the pay and benefits are significantly higher. Our prayer is that God will provide us with stability of teachers and therapist even through this time.


<< Speech therapist Revathi
(in the blue churidhar)
working with little Christo.

 

Children

I could see for myself what a mixed bag of children we have and how it's nearly impossible for a teacher to work with more than one child at one time. What makes work here more complicated is that nobody turns up on time. The earliest any one will turn up for an appointment is at least half an hour later than they should have! We then end up with two children with entirely different needs, trying hard to make them work together.



<< One of our teachers working with a group of children,
while also carrying one of our very young ones who was refusing to settle.

 

 

Teachers have already staggered attendance through the week so that we are able to fit in 18 children. (We had originally planned that our centre would cater to a maximum of 12 children, as we are located in a small 2 bedroom house).

We recently met the Bishop of the Church of South India who has agreed to discuss the possibility of housing us within one of the many schools that the church runs. We are also considering other possibilities and have spent some time looking around at properties close to bus stops. Please pray for wisdom and favour from those around us. We should have an answer from the Bishop in April. We anticipate having to pay some rent, should we be allowed use of the church's buildings. Please pray that this will not be too much.

 

New children

Meena

I have been able to assess a number of our children, some of them new to us. I met Meena, a 4 year old who has profound learning difficulties. She also has an older brother with cerebral palsy and profound learning difficulties. Parents understandably find this a huge burden and struggle to meet their children's needs. She will probably need more support than what we can offer, considering the severity of her needs. I was quite distressed to hear that one of the early intervention centres that the is funded by the government will accept her only after she is toilet trained and can climb stairs, which is probably many years away. Please pray for such families, of whom I am sure there are many. Many such parents' have such low literacy levels, they are completely unaware of their child's needs and long term implications of their child's disability - it's something I have been struggling to communicate to parents as invariably through an assessment, parents ask 'If I do all this, will she become 'normal'?

 

Ashok

I also met another child with quite severe autism whose mother was so shocked at her child's ability to do Maths (he is significantly advanced compared to his peers) that she asked us if he was 'possessed'. She had banned him from anything to do with Maths as she was scared of her child's 'supernatural' ability. I was explaining to his mother that some children with autism do have 'savant' skills, which is an above average rate of development in just one or two specific subjects and that this should be nurtured. Ashok (name has been changed) who had been wandering in another corner of the room, came and sat with us at this point, took a pencil and wrote 'Maths don't stop'! (He is already writing in Englsih, Tamil and Hindi, though he has not been taught any of this. For the most part though, he is mute, except for a couple of words he uses from time to time.) Please pray for children like Ashok. Please pray for wisdom for our teachers as they try to help families with quite complex attitudes to their children.

As I had said previously, we see the entire spectrum of abilities from Meena to Ashok and sometimes all at the same time.

 


<< "Math don't stop".
(I have gone over his writing with a pen as his writing is very faint and shaky)

 

 

Loshika

You will remember Loshkia from the last newsletter. She still remains poorly, only coming to us when discharged from hospital. Her parent's commitment to her welfare, despite their poverty has really amazed me. I have met other parents like hers, who have committed their life to helping their child.

 

Sohail

Sohail is nearly nine years old and is a strapping lad. He has quite significant behavioural difficulties associated with autism and is dependent on his parents for all his self care needs. He has to be watched constantly as he will, otherwise, hurt himself or others. His mum was explaining how, when she cooks, she holds him with one hand and cooks with the other! These parents get no respite from caring for their children which is a 24-7 job.

 

Speaking opportunities

Our local church here in Tirunelvelli has a wonderful pastor, who has a niece with Autism which has given him some firsthand experience with the disorder. We have been given a 20 minute time slot on the 26th of January, Sunday morning service to talk about Autism and how it is different from Mental Health disorders and Learning Disability. It's an opportunity we really look forward to though I am slightly anxious about conveying everything we want to in Tamil. Please pray for the right words. Please pray that people will go home with positive attitudes about autism. Please pray that computers/projectors etc will work on the day as much of the presentation uses audiovisual material.

On the 28th of January, we have been invited to speak to 40 vicars from the Tirunelvelli district. This is again a fantastic opportunity for pastors to carry the message back to their community that children with autism have many positive traits and are definitely not 'possessed'.

 

Other news

  1. Please pray for parents (especially of Akshaya and Glyton) whose attendance is very erratic. We believe that at this age there is a lot we can do to help them develop, but parents seem to not get this message.

  2. We have a child with autism who is also blind. We are not entirely sure how to go about working with him. Please pray for wisdom and resources.

  3. Please continue praying for government approval for our early intervention centre. The papers have gone to the Minister's office. We have had no news from them, though it's been sat in their office for months now. We really need a big push in prayer now to get those papers out and for the orders to take effect and the funding to come in.

 

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