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January 2011



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TIRUCHI: Seven-year-old Mercy buries her nose deep into a bunch of yellow roses. Taking a whiff, she comes up with a smile to exclaim, ‘super’. For kids like Mercy, seeing and smelling an array of flowers at ‘My Garden in a Bottle’- a guided exploratory learning session for children with autism and hearing impairment, was a sensational sensory experience.

Organised by Pravaag Transitional Centre for Children with Autism and Maharishi Service Centre for the hearing impaired, the session aimed at integrating sight, smell and touch to improve behavioural control of autistic children.

According to K.Geetha, Director of Pravaag, lack of sensory integration makes children hyper sensitive and restless. The exploratory session helped autistic kids focus attention on objects, identify colours, inhale and distinguish flowers through smell. “Eventually they are taught the names of flowers in their mother tongue to avoid complicating their learning process. For hearing impaired children, the experience can help in integration of object, word and sound,” she said.

For the 30 deaf and 55 autistic children who participated in the session, the opportunity to hold, feel and smell more than 30 varieties of flowers proved to be an adventure of sorts. Roses, dahlias, lilies, marigolds and ferns arranged tastefully in boxes and bouquets had the students exclaiming over the different textures, colours and scents.

There are varying degrees of autism and while some children can name the flowers, others can only distinguish scents. Even as twelve year old Prem, with a bunch of roses in hand pointed them out as Nehru’s favourite flowers, Roshan Vijay went around feeling leaves and flowers, labelling them soft, coarse, and thorny. But for three-year old Sujantha Andal, the effusion of colours was a new experience.

R. Shyamala, District Differently Abled Rehabilitation Officer, who graced the occasion, told The Hindu, ‘This is a novel initiative and practical exercise with many benefits. Apart from identifying colours and flowers, it enhances the visual, tactile and olfactory senses.” She also stressed there was need for sharing of innovative ideas between NGOs and service centres working with special children.

R.Revathy, Deputy District Collector was also present. ‘Pravaag’ will also hold a Teaching Materials Exhibition in mid-September and an aquarium display on September 24 for special children.

Source:  http://www.hindu.com/2010/09/03/stories/2010090358870200.htm

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