The Premasiri couple has an autistic son named Malintha. They were not devastated upon seeing their son’s misfortune. They devoted their whole lives to giving him a normal life. Their efforts came to fruition when they realized that their only child’s future is safe as he has gained the necessary life skills to lead an independent life. As most autistic children he was violent, stubborn, frequently running into tantrums, and doing daredevil things. He often hurt his parents clawing their hands, biting them and screaming frequently, only babbling one or two words. Because of their overflowing love and kindness for their son they could reform him to become a calm, obedient, intelligent and skillful young boy.
They gained a humble pride from their achievements. Though they were complacent of the endeavor, they did not stop there. They wanted to share their experiences with other parents of autistic children. In November 2010, they formed an association of desperate parents of autistic children with 12 parents at the beginning. A doctor cannot diagnose an autistic child as the child does not show any symptoms until at later stages but not at infancy. Only his parents could detect it because they are initial care-givers intimately associated with him. Autistic children’s behavior is not normal. They are violent at times and calm at others. They do daring things. But they have a potential to do intelligent things, their abilities are latent.
Malintha’s parents with their experiences with their son realized this that autistic children have dormant skills that should be recognized and developed through skillful training. Then they could become as intelligent and skillful as any normal child. This concept is the brainchild of Malintha’s father Premasir, through which he started the Association for parents with autistic children. So far 80 parents have joined this association from the Central Province. “We have received a lot of support from parents of autistic children island-wide.
But unfortunately we do not have enough facilities to expand. However, we hope to launch a new program to improve the mental capacities of these children in the near future. They can use the same methodology we used to improve our child’s mental capacities, to improve their children’s capacities as well. We expect to provide vocational training to children as well. In fact, we have conducted several training programs for the existing members.” Although the concept was four years old they could not put it into action due to lack of funds.
They could not extend the facilities to other parents because they had to sell their own assets to care for Malintha. In 2013, they were able secure a land of three and half acres on easy payment basis provided by Karunadasa Welianga. Through an introduction made by C. P. de Silva, Dharma Dheerasinghe facilitated the construction of the first building through the Commercial Bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility arm. Meanwhile, they received another grant from the Australian High Commission to construct the second building. Work on the second building commenced in 2015. “For the first stage we picked autistic kids under 15 who were living isolated lives at home. We are training them to be gainfully employed. These kids cannot be reprimanded; they must be treated with love, care and affection, with the help of their parents.
We have already commenced making incense sticks. Next, we hope to pack and market spices. We hope to train them to make stationary, paperbags, clothe bags, and build fish tanks and also train them on horticulture.’ Malintha was enrolled in a school for children with special needs in Moratuwa as a child. Knowing by instinct that he was not learning much from the school, his mother made a decision to home school him. Today, Malintha is fluent in not only Sinhala and English but also Tamil and Japanese.
He can translate these languages. “He is skilled in Arithmetic and his drawings adorn all our walls. He is no longer stubborn. We do not worry about his future now. He is quite capable of living on his own.” They hope to share this happiness with parents of other autistic children. On the same premises as their Development Centre for autistic children, they hope to commence construction of a housing scheme for the parents. These are poor parents who, without the help of the Premasiri Perera couple, cannot care for their autistic children. The Premasiri Perera couple welcomes any financial aid from generous local and foreign persons to complete their development centre. Interested individual can contact them on 0785582647 or 0717183456
Pics by Kanishka Beddewalage
(Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)