*Guest Post* -- Today's blog comes to you from our Special Education Teacher, Amanda Therrien. She recently traveled to India and has so much to share from her experiences. Enjoy!
As many of you know, I spent nearly 3 weeks in India during the end of February and the first half of March.
This trip- although seemingly random- was an expansion of work that I had already done during my masters degree at UCDenver. In 2015, I travelled to Peru visiting schools that work with individuals on the autism spectrum. Though many lessons were learned, the most impactful revelation was the goal of educating an individual from birth to death- a larger piece of this being the focus on teaching a trade or a skill from an early age. This simple concept struck me deeply as something we were lacking in the way that we educate our children in the US and inevitably was what brought me to T.A.C.T.
My decision to travel to India was a bit of a whim as a friend was traveling there as part of her MBA. She wanted to travel before and after her project and needed a travel buddy. I had been saving for another international adventure since the last one and knew that I could plan school visits around the country while she worked in Mumbai.
The best way to describe the country itself is as an INTENSE sensory overload. Immediately I began to wonder how children with ASD could possibly manage the smells, the overbearing sounds of honking and yelling, and the sheer amount of people moving about and bumping into/pushing past you at any given moment. As a neurotypical person I was overwhelmed; I could only imagine the nightmare that this could be for some of my students.
While in India, I visited 4 different schools in three different cities. I was fortunate to visit SNM Rehabilitation Centre in Jaipur, Tamana School of Hope in New Dehli, Action for Autism in New Dehli, and Ummeed Child Development Center in Mumbai.
There were many similarities between education in the US and India. The schools I toured were using ABA therapy and some had developed teacher trainings from UNC’s TEACCH Autism Program.
Throughout the schools visual schedules, PECS, and “centers” could be seen, resembling those in the US public schools. However, most notable, were the differences in the ways that Indian schools choose to educate students with different needs.
Much like Peru, these schools take a holistic and lifelong approach to educating their students. Movement and hands on learning is a central tenant in these schools as is the emphasis on occupational therapy.
Vocational skills that the students were working on ranged from jewelry making and handicrafts to baking and computer sciences.
While the US pushes forward with their focus on academics and progressing in grade levels, the rest of the world pushes forward teaching useful skills and trades to garner independence in children who might otherwise slip through the cracks.
This adventure only further confirms the need for the work that we are doing here at TACT. I am so proud and honored to be part of such a passionate team and, more so, an amazing community of children, families, and partners!
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