Sunday, May 08, 2005


Ivan and Charika Corea of the Autism Awareness Campaign have appealed directly to Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, the President of Sri Lanka who was recently in London,to take action over public services for people with autism and Asperger's Syndrome.

They have heard from Sri Lankan parents and carers who are desperate for public services in education, health, specialist speech therapy and respite care on the island. Some try to take their children for assessments in Australia and the UK but are unable to afford the high private fees. Autism is a neuro-development disorder - they say there are well over 38,000 children with autism in Sri Lanka. Autistic children think differently - they think in pictures. Albert Einstein they say had autism. In Sri Lanka autism is confused with mental illness.

Due to culture - autistic children on the island are kept at home. Thousands of Sri Lankan children have no access to education, health, specialist speech therapy and respite care. School heads do not know much about autism and are unable to provide education for autistic children and other SEN children.Many remain undiagnosed. Medical professionals haven't received full training on the CHAT system to diagnose and assess these children. There is only the Chitra Lane School and one other school that caters for SEN children. Many more special schools need to be set up to cater for the growing number of SEN children including those with autism and Asperger's Syndrome.Sri Lanka needs to train more SEN Teachers and there are only a handful of speech therapists in the whole of the island.Many more specialist speech therapists are needed.

The tsunami which devastated Sri Lanka has also led to an increase of children with disabilities and mental trauma.The Autism Awareness Campaign in Sri Lanka has been working in partnership with the respected Rotary Club of Colombo Regency to reach out to the victims. Organisations from all over the world responded to the Autism Awareness Campaign's Tsunami Appeal.

Ivan Corea urged President Kumaratunga to look into the area of autism and Asperger's Syndrome in Sri Lanka. He appealed to the Sri Lankan business community in the UK,USA, Australia and in Sri Lanka to build special schools with well equipped sensory rooms. 'This is a crying need - we hope that Sri Lankan businessmen will think about giving to set up new SEN schools in the tsunami hit areas, in Colombo and other areas,' he said. Recently Ivan Corea presented Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister with an Autism Awareness Ribbon. In a few weeks time Autism Awareness Week will be launched in the UK and around the world. He said: 'I urge Sri Lankan businessmen who feel they want to give back something to the land of their birth to go to Sri Lanka and set up SEN schools, pay for training of staff so that they could help those who cannot speak up for themselves.' This is a desperate need in Sri Lanka.

Ivan and Charika Corea were recently honoured with the Highly Commended Certificate in the Leadership category of the prestigious Beacon Prize 2004 recently announced in London. We were thrilled with the quality of the nominations received this year, reflecting the full depth and extent of charitable activity in the UK,’ commented Emily Stonor, Chief Executive of Beacon. ‘Being highly commended is thus remarkable. Ivan and Charika Corea’s nomination was judged alongside those for prize winners such as Sir Bob Geldof and Jamie Oliver.We are delighted to recognise Ivan and Charika Corea’s contribution to charity and we hope that their success story will be an inspiration to others,' said the Chief Executive of Beacon.