FROM: Sharone Hardesty, Educational Consultant-December2010/January 2011
RE: Sarwar Autistic School, Khulna, Bangladesh
BACKGROUND & OBSERVATIONS:
Students are admitted by referral from a medical person with no fees attached to attendance. At the time of this examiner’s visit, there were 83 students enrolled but no more than 40 students attend on a daily basis for a variety of reasons—one such reason is the distance from school is too far/costly to travel. The school week is five days & the school day is from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Students participate in morning exercises held outdoors for approximately 20 minutes each day. After morning exercises, students return to one of four classrooms. The designated classrooms are:
During school, all teachers were observed to be actively & appropriately engaged with students. Students in the first three classes mentioned above were respectful, attentive to and compliant with teachers’ directions. It was clear to this examiner that the relationship between teachers and students was genuine and not simply due to the presence of a visitor. It was also clear that materials and staff numbers were lacking. In the autism room, for example, one teacher and one aide we re available for 12 students. (I believe that since that time, two students have been moved into another classroom leaving ten students in the autistic room.) Students were observed undressing themselves, urinating on the floor/chair, hitting other students or themselves, and sitting at a table working with a teacher. There was no time-out room on the premises and no place (and no available staff) to manage behavior issues apart from the classroom. It was necessary to manage behavior issues taking time away from learning or reinforcing positive behaviors. Classroom materials in all classrooms were severely lacking. (On a later page of this report, is a list of essential and basic materials for the classroom and technology needs of the school.) In the vocational room, students were engaged but there is currently no one actively and eagerly working to secure a market to buy the products that the students produce. Which begs the question: What are the vocational students being prepared for? How are they being prepared to transition from the school environment to a work environment? This examiner was told that Occupational therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Music Therapy were intended to be on-going programs. Obviously these have not been implemented yet due to lack of resources.
PARENTS: This examiner met with parents on an individual basis during both the day and evening hours. Parents came prepared with questions and were active participants in the discussions and consultations.
TEACHERS: All teachers were consistently observed to be actively and appropriately engaged with their students. Their interactions were positive and productive. Their competence and dedication was remarkable. The lack of necessary materials, however, was dramatically noticeable.
ADMINISTRATION: The administrator’s position is two-fold: an educational/advisory one and a public relations one. The administrator present on a daily basis was deemed the Chief Coordinator. Academically/educationally and professionally in order to contribute or promote good teaching practices he should be well informed about special needs students, methods, research, or current practices. The chief administrator should have both professional and clinical experience in special needs. Some resources should be employed towards upgrading the skills of the administrator. It was clear that teachers were supporting each other academically and professionally since they were the only ones possessing the knowledge of special needs issues.
· This examiner is extremely concerned about sustainability. The mission ought to include promotion and provision of academic/vocational/social opportunities for a lifetime for their students. If the teachers are not provided with curriculum guidelines and given materials with which to work, the students will not progress and transition into work settings or group home settings. The school must not become simply a place to go without a purpose for life after school.
· Fees should be charged on a sliding scale i.e. according to what the family can afford. In some cases, there would be no fee. This should be a highly confidential matter. This speaks to a family’s commitment to send their child on a daily basis which is essential for student progress. The enrollment number has no meaning if only half of those students are attending on a consistent basis.
· Contact/submit grants to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), Central Asia Institute (CAI), and other organizations whose mission is compatible with yours i.e. providing educational and vocational opportunities for special needs students. Without firm financial backing, curriculum guidelines, sufficient staff, materials, current methods, the program cannot be sustained.
· Teachers should be given paid professional development opportunities at the university level to keep current with practices, research, and methods in Special Education.
· Students should be involved with Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech/Language Therapy services according to their needs on a daily basis.
· The curriculum should involve a physical activity component (more than the morning exercises) on a daily basis and all students should be required to participate.
· All teachers need to be professionally trained n Behavior Modification techniques
Educational Materials & Technology Needs
· Sensory Integration Room including but not limited to: padded walls & floor, low lighting, swings, slides, pool of rubber balls
· Time-out room complete with padded walls & floor
· Secured Library area with materials
· Peg boards
· Duplo & Lego blocks
· Squeeze toys
· Rubber balls ranging from palm size to 6 feet (180cm) circumference
· Wooden puzzles with large pieces
· Colored pencils
· Colored markers & crayons
· Water colors & water color paper
· 3 rectangular plastic buckets
· 5 headsets (total ear coverage)
· Wooden building blocks
· Small metal rings
· 3”x5” (7.5x12.5cm) index cards
· Small Laminating machine
· Musical instruments including but not limited to: 12 sets of drum sticks, 2 acoustic guitars, 10 sets of bongo drums
· Wooden beads with strings
· Glitter wands
· Strings of small Christmas lights
· 10 large-button calculators
· Cotton balls
· Bags of fine granulated sand & sandbox
· CD Players in each classroom
· CD collection chosen by teachers for movement & soothing activities
· Graphic novel collection for children in library area
· Coloring books
· Digital projector
· Wireless microphone
· Accounts payable& receivable software
· Internet connection & email account
· 2 locking file cabinets
· Computer table/chair
· Digital camera
· Laser color printer
· Movie camera
PLEASE NOTE: Some of the technology recommendations will have multiple purposes:
· for daily school use
· to promote the workings of the school for funding & advertising
· to recruit recent graduates for employment
· to recruit visiting educational consultants.