Salute, sandwiches & smiles

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By MALANCHA DASGUPTA
  • Published 29.06.13
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Aditya Ranjan, a nine-year-old student at Alokdhara, spent all of Thursday morning rehearsing how he would greet governor M.K. Narayanan. When the moment came, Aditya not only walked up with a bunch of flowers, as planned, but surprised everyone with a grand salute before promising to send a painting to the guest of honour.

The governor spent the next hour interacting with the children of Alokdhara, an inclusive school, shared cheese sandwiches with them and signed autographs.

Avnish Saha’s mother had tears in her eyes when Narayanan offered her son a sandwich. The little boy was happy to make a new friend and gave him a dazzling smile after a moment’s hesitation.

Six-year-old Abahon Adok also had the governor impressed with his diligence. The boy ran to a computer and refused to look up from the monitor even when teachers tried to draw his attention towards the guest.

Narayanan toured the school to learn about the teaching methods and took keen interest in the Virtual Elevated Square based on the Miller Method that teaches autistic kids through bodily connection with the environment and language development.

“We are the only school in Bengal that has the Virtual Elevated Square. It has different platforms like one with holes and one with a narrow passage among many others. This helps them negotiate barriers,” explained Krishna Roy, the principal.

“Autism is a neuro developmental disability… which requires a multi-dimensional therapeutic approach. Miller Method is one of the many methods that can help but sadly no school in Bengal uses it,” said Sahidul Arefin, a speech language pathologist associated with Alokdhara and one of the authors of Handbook on Autism Spectrum Disorder, a copy of which was gifted to the governor.

Students of Calcutta International School (CIS) who visit Alokdhara every week were also present to meet the governor. “We believe in experimental learning. Our students work with autistic kids because through the interaction they discover themselves,” said Satyajit Banerjee, the (acting) director of CIS.

Roy too stressed the need to “break the wall”. “It is important for kids with autism to go to a regular school. The minute I say Alokdhara is an inclusive school, parents refuse to admit their children here. That is the reason I call it a School for All. Interaction between autistic and regular children will help both.”

Minu Budhia, the founder and director of Addlife Caring Minds Psychological and Cognitive Wellness Centre, was also present on the occasion.