In commemoration of the Chitra Lane School for Special Children celebrating 50 years of service, the revered school launched the book ‘The Chitra Lane Way: A Definitive Approach to Empowering Children with Special Needs in Sri Lanka’ on 28th February, 2018 at the school’s Auditorium. The book relays the journey in which the school has taken since inception and the President of the Chitra Lane Welfare Society for Children with Special Needs, Mrs. Delysia Gunewardene, who founded the school, wanted to put together a compilation of the many elements that has defined the school, it’s staff and students. Ms. Delysia also happens to be the mother of Odel’s Founder, Otara Gunewardene.
Special needs children are differently-abled and can be diagnosed from an early age with developmental issues such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, Down’s syndrome and many more such issues. These children tend to differ in the way society witnesses them and they experience mental or physical forms of learning disabilities to the extent of needing specially modified school practices to their daily learning routines giving them the opportunity to attain a level of ability whilst moulding their potentials in the process.
In Sri Lanka, many low income families with children who are in need of special care sometimes don’t get the support they need. Fifty years ago, Delysia Gunewardene founded the school beginning with two children, in the hopes of bridging this gap and giving differently-abled children a new lease of life. Today, this journey has no doubt sprouted for us an eye-opening subject while making us wonder whether we have done enough to build a society that is all-inclusive.
At Chitra Lane School for Special Children, a lot happens, not only for the children but their parents and guardians as well. The school excels in providing an active service by involving the parents of differently-abled children towards enhancing their educational prowess. All this and more has been exhaustively documented into the book, where those who attended the launch also extended their interest and support by purchasing their copies and getting them signed by Ms. Delysia herself.
The school today offers a haven for children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 21 years. Qualified and experienced teachers offer their expertise, love and care at the Children’s Resource Centre which showcases a fully equipped facility that offers services such as early detection and intervention, speech therapy, physiotherapy, special education, parent counseling, IQ Evaluations and more. There are even children whose parents arrive with them from as far as India, Bangladesh and the Maldives.
The centre also provides a sheltered workshop where life skills and vocational training courses are conducted. There is even an Academy that has been setup in the hopes of giving prospective teachers, medical students from the University of Colombo and from around the country the right training pertaining to understanding and working with special needs children.
At the book launch, special guests included Dr. David Ratnavale who is a renowned Psychiatrist and Dr. David Panter, who were both regarded as loving friends of the Chitra Lane School. Ms. Otara Gunewardene, the books Editor and Author, Ms. Radhika Philip, Ms. Nishalie Fernandopulle and many other guests attended the event. During the event’s proceedings, Ms. Fernandopulle stated that the book was dedicated to the struggling children who face many types of day to day difficulties; from learning to focusing or going to the bathroom and washing up as well as for parents who take care of special needs children, as the content allows for a better understanding from experiences spanning 50 years.
Ms. Delysia, who is behind this great endeavor, commented, “I am particularly proud of the successful strides we have made in our unique programme to overcome ADHD. Just by compartmentalizing small pockets of time and giving it a minute or two extra each day, we have found the results are far reaching, both in terms of the spectrum of needs it addresses (including the beneficial effect on auditory and visual processing problems in Autism), as well as in the setting of regular timetables and life routines. Every day we learn, as new methods arise and the children teach us to expand the boundaries of what is possible. It is time for us to share our knowledge. That is why this book is important to us, because there are far more children in Sri Lanka who may benefit from our methods than we can reach via our organization alone.’
The book holds methodology that has been shared by people over the course of 50 years. Back then, there happened to be very little record of these types of childhood issues and there hardly was an assessment that was conducted to suit the country. The book will pave way for the relevant person to become the best version of themselves, especially when it comes to engaging with a special needs child. Irrespective, anyone who is interested in the topic and who craves more details about this segment of special care, would no doubt find the book to be revealing, informative and an eye-opener.
`The Chitra Lane Way’ is available for sale at the Chitra Lane Children’s Resource Centre 45/3, Chitra Lane, Colombo 5. All proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the Chitra Lane School for the Special Child.
Text by Sara Pathirana