Sri Lankan Musicians Back Autism Awareness Campaign

Sri Lankan musicians have thrown their weight behind the
important Autism Awareness Campaign on the island. They have also commended the
Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka for taking the first steps in tackling
educational strategies for dealing with autistic children in the mainstream
school setting.

Ivan and Charika Corea of the Autism Awareness Campaign welcomed the move by the
Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka to reach out to the autistic community in the
island. Ten autistic children who were already in special education units in
schools in the Western Province were taken so that the National Resource Centre
in Maharagama could train Sri Lankan teachers to be sent all over the country.
Already, 30 special education teachers have been trained there. The Government
of Sri Lanka are now committed to an ‘inclusion policy’ and are focusing
attention on autistic children for the first time.Ivan and Charika Corea have commended this start. ‘Children with autism and
Asperger’s Syndrome in Sri Lanka desperately need help. We need to bring them
into our world. We urge the Ministry of Education to develop autism units in
schools and we are calling upon Sri Lankan businessmen to build and fund autism
units in schools and build and maintain fully functional sensory rooms, we call
upon the Sri Lankan expatriate community around the world to help all children
with special educational needs in this way
,’ said Ivan Corea. He thanked the
Sri Lankan musicians for raising the profile of this serious education and
health issue. The stars are planning a huge fund raising concert for autism in
Colombo in 2006.

Thousands of autistic children are kept at home without any access to education.
There are issues of culture and autism is also confused with mental illness.
Medical and education professionals need training in autism. There are children
who remain undiagnosed. There is a lack of awareness of autism in the provincial
towns and villages.

The Corea Family have also been in touch with former US President Bill Clinton
who is the United Nations Envoy to the tsunsmi hit countries. There is a real
need for SEN schools in the tsunami hit regions.

Autism is a neuro developmental disorder affecting 38,000 Sri Lankans and
some say there is an increase in numbers of those touched by autism and
Asperger’s Syndrome. Ivan and Charika Corea have been appealing to the
Government of Sri Lanka to provide public services in education, health,
specialist speech therapy and respite care for all people with autism in Sri
Lanka. They launched their campaign in Colombo in 2003.

Backing for the Autism Awareness Campaign came from the highly influential
European Union parliamentarian, Nirj Deva MEP who is visiting Colombo. Deva who
was born in Sri Lanka and is one of the MEPs representing the United Kingdom
reiterated his strong support for the campaign. Deva is a member of the European
Union Development and Co-operation Committee,Substitute Regional Policy,
Transport and Tourism Committee. He is also fully involved in the work of the EU
in the tsunami hit regions. Deva met with musicians involved with the campaign
in Colombo.

Support also came from the Sri Lankan superstar Desmond De Silva who created
history by being the first Sri Lankan musician to appeal on autism when he
addressed over a thousand people at a music concert at the BMICH in Colombo on
6th August 2005.

De Silva is an international star who has performed all over the world. He told
the audience:’ Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder affecting so many
around the world. Autism is not mental illness, these children and adults think
differently. Albert Einstein they say was autistic. How many in the audience
know that there are 38,000 autistic people in Sri Lanka? So we as entertainers,
urge you all to ‘speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves

Lets spread awareness of autism, particularly when numbers of autistic
children are rising and we urge our government to also provide public services –
who knows we may even produce Albert Einsteins if we provide education, health,
specialist speech therapy for autistic children in our lovely island
,’ said
Desmond de Silva.

One of Sri Lanka’s greatest singer/songwriters, the renowned musician, Nimal
Mendis also supports the Autism Awareness Campaign.