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New autism centres in Kerala's Ernakulam district gets a cold response from experts

The Samagra Shiksha Kerala (SSK) is planning to start more autism centres and sensory parks across Ernakulam district. But parents and experts point out that the government must focus on implementing stricter rules and introduce regulations at the already existing centres before starting new ones.

Not enough. That's the response from parents and special educators to the Kerala government's proposal to start new autism centres in Ernakulam. Instead, they say the government should focus on ensuring that existing centres function as per rules and regulations.

Recently, a group of parents in Kochi filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) pushing for this. Until now, there has been no response. Given this scenario, they say its a bad move on Samagra Shiksha Kerala (SSK)'s part to start new centres

SSK has started four centres in the outskirts of Kochi city at Aluva, Angamaly, Thripunithura and Paravur. Another 11 centres will be added to the list. Reportedly, the Ministry of Human Resources is funding the project in collaboration with local government bodies.

Sivadas AK, Secretary, Trivandrum Autism Club says its time the government acted on its promise to support autism centres across Kerala.

There are many autism centres across the state. So we really do not need new ones. The government must focus on how to improve the welfare of these places instead of wasting funds on building new ones. Teachers have to be trained well, and these trained teachers must ensure that teachers from mainstream schools are also given information on how to handle children with autism. In some centres, classrooms still remain vacant. Fill those ones first. A thorough plan must be made to ensure that all this is successfully implemented. Sivadas AK, Secretary, Trivandrum Autism Club.

SSK also plans to start autism parks to encourage children with disabilities to come outdoors and explore new things and meet new people.

Seema Lal, co-founder of parents support group TogetherWeCan, says the government must focus on first following the guidelines of the RPWD Act. "More and more autism centres are mushrooming across our cities. But no one knows about who is monitoring them or whether these centres even adhere to guidelines. What we need is more programs that can empower families who have children with disabilities and schools for kids so that they are equipped to face the competitive world".

Lal calls autism parks just another gimmick. "All parks must be made inclusive. Moreover, children with autism have different sensory needs. So what is the need for this", she asks.

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