Since Severine returned from her travels I have been focusing on developing the work started by the previous volunteer Emma Angebaud, in Nav-Chetna School. I will be returning to work in the Unit full-time after December, so my time at Nav-Chetna is unfortunately very limited and the developments that need to be made in that period are at times overwhelming. I am however planning to continue visiting the school on a weekly basis until I leave in March, in the hopes that changes made in the coming month are maintained in the longer term.
There are unfortunately many factors which cannot be improved at this stage. Such as the ‘school’ itself which consists of: one small classroom, three desks in the corridor of a residential block of flats and a damp ‘office’ with mould dropping from the ceiling.
Despite the inappropriate setting, limited training of staff and scarcity of resources, progress is slowly beginning to occur within Nav-Chetna School. Funding was recently acquired to buy some toys and basic teaching implements, and a cleanout of the cupboards revealed some salvageable resources among the boxes of broken toys.
Due to the restricted time frame I feel that the provision of 1:1 therapy for individual children would have little to no long term effect. As such, I am predominantly focusing on working alongside the teachers in an attempt to encourage them to incorporate functional activities of daily living and educational structure within the daily routine of the children.
While lessons are provided to the majority of children in the school, those with the most profound levels of difficulty have previously been left un-stimulated throughout the day. This class is now the main area of focus for change and we are attempting to incorporate a structured lesson plan, supported by the use of a visual timetable on a daily basis.
So far, both staff and children have responded very positively to the incorporation of structured activities graded to the individual ability of each child. Children who previously spent the day in repetitive obsessional play or blankly staring at the walls, are now demonstrating some basic counting and colour matching skills. Basic colouring activities are being encouraged in an attempt to develop early pencil skills.
We are making use of the small area of ground outside the building for daily sports; an activity which I hope will also provide the opportunity to increase the childrens’ independence with dressing skills. Again the initiation of such basic activities has stimulated dramatic changes in many of the children. One Autistic child who previously spent the day crouched and rocking in the corner, refusing to interact with others, will now catch and throw a ball with another child during these sessions. Another who is unable to walk, and as a result was frequently excluded from activities, is now carried downstairs and placed on a mat where he is thriving off the opportunity to interact and participate in games with his peers.
Every morning I arrive despairing over the magnitude of the changes that need to be made within this school, yet every afternoon I leave elated by the slow but steady progress occurring.
I just hope that enough can be achieved within a month for staff to feel the benefits of change, and be sufficiently motivated to ensure that the progress made is maintained long term.
Paediatric Occupational Therapist
Thank you Catriona, only from these pictures I can already see so many improvements in Nav-Cheta School! Dominique