DUBAI // “How was school?” was never a question 19-year-old Krishna Kisani could answer.
But the teenager who has autism now takes out flash cards to show healthy and unhealthy food groups and repeats ‘fire station’ after a class visit with teachers at the Integreat Centre.
His mother Savitri enjoys finally knowing what her son does in school due to a structured programme helping the teenager to open up and communicate.
“Before I wouldn’t know what he did. The teachers would write down what was done in the diary. Now it is beautiful to see him show me his day with flash cards. Even if he says just one word, it his way to communicate with us,” Mrs Kisani said.
“When he gets a worksheet home and fills in the blanks, it helps him recall what he has done. Constant repetition and a daily routine are very important.”
Like many parents Mrs Kisani struggled to find a space for Krishna once he turned 17.
There are few facilities for moderate, slow learners and low functioning young adults once they leave special needs schools in the UAE.
“Our worry was where do we put him next. This is a blessing because he looks forward to go to the centre since he loves learning something different. Earlier we literally had to push him to go to school. Now he comes home with a lot of positivity and wants to finish off homework.”
Vidya Ayyaswamy, a special educational needs educator said preparation was key.
“Krishna works well with visuals. Students with autism like to know things in advance and learning must be supported with pictorial images to prepare them. If you give a verbal instruction, they forget what it is. They need a sequence to know what comes next.”
Krishna and his classmates were also taken to a clothes store by teachers and encouraged to explore what colour and size suited them.
His parents repeated the experiment allowing him time alone to choose and Krishna picked up a pair of denim shorts on his first solo shopping trip.
“Before we never gave him the chance to look at clothes because we chose for him. He did not even know his size,” Mrs Kisani said.
Anxious among people he does not know, Krishna cannot express himself easily. Still he can reel out the ingredients of butter chicken and cheesecake from recipes he finds on the Internet and also enjoys playing the piano.
His father Manoj hopes to nourish Krishna’s new found independence.
“If he can communicate what he needs or when he is alone if he can walk to a supermarket to buy something on his own, these are our goals,” he said.