Monday, August 22, 2005

Autism Awareness Campaign welcomes Sri Lankan Education Ministry Initiative

Ivan and Charika Corea of the Autism Awareness Campaign welcomed the move by the Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka to reach out to the autistic community in the island.Ten autistic children who were already in special education units in schools in the Western Province were taken so that the National Resource Centre in Maharagama could train Sri Lankan teachers to be sent all over the country. Already, 30 special education teachers have been trained there. The Government of Sri Lanka are now committed to an 'inclusion policy' and are focusing attention on autistic children for the first time.

Ivan and Charika Corea have commended this start. 'Children with autism and Asperger's Syndrome in Sri Lanka desperately need help. We need to bring them into our world. We urge the Miistry of Education to develop autism units in schools and we are calling upon Sri Lankan businessmen to build and fund autism units in schools and build and maintain fully functional sensory rooms, we call upon the Sri Lankan expatriate community around the world to help all children with special educational needs in this way,' said Ivan Corea.

Thousands of autistic children are kept at home without any access to education. There are issues of culture and autism is also confused with mental illness. Medical and education professionals need training in autism. There are children who remain undiagnosed. There is a lack of awareness of autism in the provincial towns and villages.

The Corea Family have also been in touch with former US President Bill Clinton who is the United Nations Envoy to the tsunsmi hit countries. There is a real need for SEN schools in the tsunami hit regions.

Autism is a neuro developmental disorder affecting 38,000 Sri Lankans and some say there is an increase in numbers of those touched by autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Ivan and Charika Corea have been appealing to the Government of Sri Lanka to provide public services in education, health, specialist speech therapy and respite care for all people with autism in Sri Lanka. They launched their campaign in Colombo in 2003.

Backing for the Autism Awareness Campaign came from the highly influential European Union parliamentarian, Nirj Deva MEP who is visiting Colombo. Deva who was born in Sri Lanka and is one of the MEPs representing the United Kingdom reiterated his strong support for the campaign. Deva is a member of the European Union Development and Co-operation Committee,Substitute Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism Committee. He is also fully involved in the work of the EU in the tsunami hit regions.

Support also came from the Sri Lankan superstar Desmond De Silva who created history by being the first Sri Lankan musician to appeal on autism when he addressed over a thousand people at a music concert at the BMICH in Colombo on 6th August 2005.

De Silva is an international star who has peformed all over the world. He told the audience:' Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder affecting so many around the world. Autism is not mental illness, these children and adults think differently. Albert Einstein they say was autistic. How many in the audience know that there are 38,000 autistic people in Sri Lanka? So we as entertainers, urge you all to ‘speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.’ Lets spread awareness of autism, particularly when numbers of autistic children are rising and we urge our government to also provide public services – who knows we may even produce Albert Einsteins if we provide education, health, specialist speech therapy for autistic children in our lovely island,' said Desmond de Silva.

One of Sri Lanka's greatest singer/songwriters, the renowned musician Nimal Mendis also threw in his support for the Autism Awareness Campaign.