There’s never a dull moment at this centre
A day packed to the brim with lessons, activity, recreation, therapy and vocational training.
Just before a bell announces the start of the timetable, we too are at the National Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy and Other Developmental Disorders (NCCCPDD) in Kalapaluwawe, Rajagiriya to see the day taking shape, making major changes in the lives of a group of children who had nowhere to go to or no one to turn to earlier. Their parents had to accept their lot with stoic resignation. But that is the past now.
The NCCCPDD – a joint venture of the Cerebral Palsy Lanka Foundation and Dilmah’s Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Trust – saw the light of day in September 2016 after numerous ‘wheelchair camps’ to assess the needs and prevalence of cerebral palsy (CP) in all 25 districts of Sri Lanka.
The camps were an eye-opener, with a high prevalence of CP being found in Kandy, Jaffna and Kurunegala cities and the realization that while there is value in the roll-out of national policies and standards for disability, local transport and the lack of disability access across the country require localised services for regular therapy, resources for families and caregivers and training for children, caregivers and medical professionals.
The NCCCPDD, dedicated to the promotion, research, rehabilitation and support of children and families with CP, Down Syndrome, Autism and other developmental disabilities, which opened its doors to 32 children, has seen the numbers swell to nearly 130 and the children and youth (ranging in age from 0 to 23 years) who are following vocational training have made immense strides. Building on this successful model, a centre has now been set up in Kandy, while two more are on the cards this year for Jaffna and Kurunegala.
We are shown around by NCCCPDD’s Manager Dilani Gopi and the Head of Rehabilitation Services Gopi Kitnasamy whose determination to give of their best to their son, Danush, living with CP led to their paths converging with the Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Trust. The rest, of course, is recent history and Danush is now in the vocational training unit learning to be independent.
Those enrolled at the NCCCPDD all in green uniforms, have been grouped, depending on their ability and academic performance, into Levels going up to 4, with the latter with normal IQ for their age following the national syllabus.
Whether going round and round on the roundabout which has been modified for wheelchairs to be fitted to it; see-sawing up and down, being on the swing flying not too high, jumping on the trampoline or wheeling around in the garden where plants stimulate all the senses and huge ‘musical instruments’ of pipes etc aid the therapy, the NCCCPDD is all about inclusivity.
Children engage in yoga along with their mothers, for better breathing, digestion and also to help limb movement; go along a sensory pathway comprising grass, chips of pol-mudu, stones and sand; take a dip in the pool for a little hydrotherapy; or learn their lessons seated in custom-made chairs to which their bodies fit perfectly.