CDB and SLACD Add Outdoor Therapeutic Play Area for Children with Autism in Ampara
With April marking Autism Awareness Month, the Autism Trust Fund, a joint initiative between Citizens Development Business Finance PLC (CDB) and Sri Lanka Association for Child Development (SLACD) opened a state-of-the-art outdoor therapeutic play area designed for children with autism at Ampara District Hospital. An Autism Awareness Walk was held coinciding with the opening of outdoor therapeutic play area to enhance autism awareness in Ampara. The walk and play area was realized due to a request made by the Ampara District Hospital to SLACD and CDB. With one in hundred children in Sri Lanka diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, CDB has been continuing its multi-faceted Autism Awareness Programme highlighting the importance of early identification so developmental delays in children can be identified and prevented.
The state-of-the-art Outdoor Therapeutic Play Area for children with autism is the first such facility in a government hospital and is a joint initiative by CDB and SLACD, funded through the Autism Trust Fund. The Play Area is equipped with swings, slides, trampolines and tunnels providing children with the required sensory stimulation.
Dr. Swarna Wijetunga, Consultant Psychiatrist at Lady Ridgeway Hospital and the President of the SLACD adds that this fully equipped play area enables children with this developmental disorder to engage in therapeutic exercises which are generally unavailable in normal play areas. “Sri Lanka has high incidences of autism which for the most part go undetected. I do believe that when the first-point-of-contact medical professionals as well as parents and the general public are better informed, they will be able to identify the developmental disorder which can be seen as early as at 18 months and get the necessary intervention so that the child can live a life of normalcy without fear of reprimand, anger or ostracization.”
The Autism Awareness Walk began from the Ampara City Center in the morning and concluded at the Ampara District Hospital. It had a collective of very supportive walkers numbering more than 650 comprising CDB staff, SLACD members, staff of the Ampara District Hospital, the general public and well wishers, each highly committed to ensuring the message of early intervention and identification is cascaded to as many as possible. Another vital facet augmenting this awareness campaign is the partnership with Derana, whose electronic outreach would add a far-reaching dimension to communicating the importance of early detection.
CDB’s multi-award winning Autism Awareness Programme was launched in 2015. It has thus far conducted a multi-lingual mass media campaign across the country and hosted multi-lingual poster campaigns to maximize awareness. SLACD has implemented two outreach programmes in Pimbura and Ratnapura for first contact doctors, MOHs (Medical Officer Health), public health midwives and other healthcare professionals with support gained from CDB. The construction of the outdoor therapeutic play area especially designed for children with autism and the Autism Awareness Walk are the latest in a series of projects to cascade the message even further.
SLACD will continue its unrelenting focus on autism by adding more outreach programmes across the country and CDB will donate more therapeutic play areas to geographic locations that have higher incidences of autism. The emphasis on training and development of stakeholders will be augmented further, while necessary materials and equipment for assessment and intervention will be provided. CDB invites the general public to sponsor needy families with children with autism by calling to register on the CDB Autism Awareness helpline 0117 490 000.
Over 650 from the CDB staff, Sri Lanka Association for Child Development (SLACD) members, Staff of District Hospital Ampara, the general public and well wishers, from Ampara participating in the Autism Awareness Walk organized by District Hospital Ampara in collaboration with CDB, SLACD and supported by Derana.
Dr Hiranya Wijesundara, Consultant Psychiatric at District Hospital Ampara cut the ribbon to open the Outdoor Therapeutic Play Area designated for children with autism.
Children play inside the newly launched Autism Therapeutic area at the Ampara District Hospital.