Indonesia Reflections on my 2015 Visit

Indonesia Reflections on my 2015 Visit


When I think of my time on Bali & Java, I am filled with the images of children, their families, their teachers & therapists smiling as they welcome suggestions, knowledge, ideas, & methods & above all hope. Yes, hope for their sons, daughters, students or clients with autism, ADD/ADHD, downs syndrome, cerebral palsy or some type of developmental learning challenge.

I first think of the smiles on our two wheel-chair bound children from YPK, as they held their soccer balls high in the air atop orange cones as their drivers got them as close to the soccer nets as possible so they could toss their balls into the goals. Wow, such huge smiles because they were outside on a soccer field with normal children while coaches (my sons) helped them go through a variety of soccer drills just like everyone else.

Next I remember the tears running down the face of Ibu (mother) Panji, whose son has autism, when she realized, during my workshop on “Siblings Matter Too”, that brothers & sisters of children with special needs will also require some special understanding & attention because their sibling has special needs. I realized that a second sadness was felt by Ibu Panji, first knowing that one of her sons would never do the typical things all normal children in Bali do & second that she must stay alert to the emotions of her other children.

I remember the laughs & giggles of the 275 participants at the IMPATI (Indonesia Autism Society) workshop I presented in Jakarta, Java on “Building A Curriculum for Students with Autism”, when I had all of them stand up, jump, shake, turn around, stretch, twist, take deep breaths every 30 minutes to demonstrate how important for children with special needs to also have breaks & to move if we wanted them to keep focused & engaged.

I will not forget the looks on the Sari Hati teachers & volunteers’ faces when I joined their group & was able to get the group of the most active kiddos with special needs all seated in a circle of chairs beating drums. They were so surprised to see that this one young child who never sits, was sitting in my lap indicating his desire to obtain deep pressure from my squeezing his hands, arms, shoulders & back. Kent was very happy to know that some children respond with deep pressure in a calming manner & when also pounding drums receive deep proprioceptive input which can be calming as well.

Then there were the smiles on the 4 special needs children, learning in Ibu Gusti’s center, who were so proud to show me their colorful drawings. I loved watching one little girl take pride in learning how to brush her hair & her teacher teaching her how important it is to care about her hygiene. I will remember our discussions on how to teach math in a meaningful way (making shopping lists, counting out needed items at the store and making change when purchasing). Next year I look forward to bringing a special writing program to the center to help improve handwriting.

I will cherish my time spent with founders, board members, directors & administrators of programs listening to their hopes, dreams & challenges & exploring solutions with them. I will remember their openness, caring, their hope for better futures for children with special needs & their honest intentions to do the best they can for children, families, staff & the community. I was happy to help people think about strategic planning instead of living only in the day. I was happy to help others think about learning from other programs on the island & showing a consistent presence in their centers so excellent modeling could occur. Finally, I was happy to connect resources that live on the island, to each other so that together greater things are possible.

I look forward to my next visit & bringing academic teaching strategies, special curriculums & information on specific topics to the teachers. I look forward to connecting more dots together on the island to build collaboration. I look forward to facilitating problem solving strategies with teams who truly want to make a difference in the lives of those who learn differently.

Karen Kaplan
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