Bali needs an integrated facility for special needs

by Luh De Suriyani on 2012-09-24

Ni Made Resiani and her autistic son rode on her motorcycle to attend the anniversary of the Parents Support Group (PSG) held on Sunday at the Legislative Council building in Denpasar, 100 kilometers from their home.

The 34-year-old woman, a coffee plantation laborer from the border area of Buleleng and Bangli, is no longer able to take her 14-year-old son, I Gede Darma Putra, to the center for autism therapy in Denpasar. He had to quit therapy after three years, since his father, a truck driver, died in an accident.

She has tried to give her son therapy at home and to teach him how to be self-reliant. “The point is how to teach him to do everything on his own, for his future,” she said.

Resiani is one of many underprivileged parents who cannot afford the therapy for their special-needs children.

She said many of the parents left their children tied or locked up in their homes because there was no center for autism therapy in Singaraja or Bangli, the two nearest cities from the village she lives in. Four years ago, she forced herself to learn to ride a motorcycle so that she could take her son to therapy in Denpasar.

“I found out from the therapy that my son is special.”

Darma is indeed special. He likes to read old newspapers and he can understand how a gadget works even though he doesn’t own one.

Although he has only had one year of formal education, in elementary school, he was able to pass a junior high school English exam. “He could give the right answers to 42 out of 50 problems.”

Unfortunately, he had to leave elementary school because his teachers feared he was being ridiculed by the other students. Darma experiences difficulties with communicating.

“I want him to improve, but I can’t afford the therapy,” Resiani said.

Darma dreams of becoming a TV presenter on a sports program. He is able to memorize sports events and the names of soccer players.

Denpasar Mayor Ida Bagus Rai Dharmawijaya Mantra said during the PSG anniversary event that the city administration had yet to be able to provide adequate facilities for children with special needs.

“We have only been able to build a school for autistic children in
Denpasar, and that still has limited facilities.”

He hoped that eventually the city could have an integrated autism center, like those in Jakarta and Malang, to provide wider access for children to join therapy and special education.

He continued saying that increasing need meant every regency in Bali should have autism center.

Meanwhile, Lili F. Sutamaja, chairwoman of PSG Bali, said the group was running a fundraising program called “Care for Autism” to build an integrated autism center.

“We aim to help children with special needs from underprivileged families and those who have not received proper treatment.”

The funds are being collected through the distribution of donation boxes by parents and donors.

During the anniversary event, hundreds of autistic children from several therapy centers in Denpasar performed Balinese dancing, singing and operetta. Encouraging the children to join an art performance can be therapeutic and boost their confidence.

PSG was established by eight parents, all with special-needs children. Currently, it already has 60 active members who support each other for their children’s development.

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