School of hope for autistic children

At the Unique Gift Foundation's school in Saidpur, Bangladesh, teachers provide support and assess the specific needs of the autistic child they are assigned to in one-on-one sessions.
At the Unique Gift Foundation's school in Saidpur, Bangladesh, teachers provide support and assess the specific needs of the autistic child they are assigned to in one-on-one sessions.PHOTO: COURTESY OF EAM ASADUZZAMAN

BANGLADESH • Worldwide, one in 160 children suffers from autism.

These children - who may display difficulties with social skills, speech or non-verbal communication and repetitive behaviour - are often discriminated against.

But behavioural treatment and parental skills training programmes can reduce these difficulties, creating a positive impact on well being and quality of life.

The Unique Gift Foundation's school in Saidpur, northern Bangladesh, has been helping families of children with autism.

Founded in 2012, the non-profit organisation's mission is to offer support to children on the autism spectrum, giving them the confidence to perform day-to-day tasks without depending on their parents or others.

Twice a year, the foundation provides teacher-training programmes on child development, nutrition, psychology and therapy.

Teachers at the school learn to assess each student's individual needs.

 

Along with academic lessons, the school offers classes in physical play, socialising through conversation, art and music.

The school's founder, Ms Tauhida Sultana, is a businesswoman who grew up in the same district.

She was motivated to establish it following her experiences with an autistic nephew, and because she witnessed the agony of other families affected by the disorder.

Although the children's parents are required to pay a small fee - which goes towards the running of the school that currently has 33 students, 17 teachers and eight other staff members - it is funded mostly by the businesswoman herself.

People from the district and surrounding areas, wanting to set up similar institutes, frequently visit the school to learn about its methods.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'School of hope for autistic children'. Print Edition | Subscribe