Though it may have started small, since its beginnings in 1967, Chitra Lane has grown into a leading organisation in the care of those with Special Needs. Offering comprehensive support to children and young adults with difficulties such as Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism (ASD) and ADHD, Chitra Lane currently helps over 1500 children. A far cry from the two children it initially took under its wings.
Close to 50 years ago when Chitra Lane started there was little understanding of the appropriate care for Special Needs children in Sri Lanka. The fact that today Chitra Lane comprises four facilities: a School for the Special Child, a Resource Centre, their Sheltered Workshop, and their Academy is testament to the demand for the services they offer.
The Chitra Lane School (1967)
Run with the firm belief that every child has the potential to learn, even if it is learning to comb his or her own hair, to hold a cup and drink by themselves, or paint a picture that speaks a thousand words, the Chitra Lane School works tirelessly with children ranging from those who are severely impaired to those who are slow learners or have learning difficulties. Though the students come predominantly from low-income families based in Colombo, the school does cater to those from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and conducts programmes in both Sinhala and Tamil.
The School offers an alternative to mainstream education, and the 200 students enrolled follow a comprehensive child-centred special education curriculum which teaches sensory and cognitive skills, as well as language and numeracy, the creative arts, sports and even vocational training. Students are also provided with a midday meal and access to the facilities at the Chitra Lane Resource Centre to ensure their health and well-being.
Chitra Lane Resource Centre (1989)
Accessible to anyone whose child has a special need, the Chitra Lane Resource Centre offers support not only to those with Special Needs, but also to their families. The centre empowers parents with the necessary skills and knowledge to care for their special child at home, as well as providing services such as speech therapy, hydrotherapy (in their in-house swimming pool), and counselling. It also conducts training programs and awareness raising workshops on a range of topics including early detection, as well as providing a well-equipped medical clinic.
Recognized as a centre of excellence to which doctors, schools and other organizations from across Sri Lanka and even abroad refer children on a regular basis, the centre collaborates with government universities, non-governmental organisations, and schools, in order to create better facilities and services for children with Special Needs from Down Syndrome to Dyslexia, Cerebral Palsy to speech impediments.
Every child that walks through their doors is seen by one of the experienced consultants and provided with screening and an intervention programme that is carried out by a team of professionals including educational and medical specialists, psychologists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, and several special education and remedial teachers.
Chitra Lane Sheltered Workshop (2001)
The Chitra Lane Sheltered Workshops are an excellent initiative in that they provide opportunities for income-generation and sheltered employment for intellectually impaired young adults. Initially developed for graduates of the Chitra Lane School, who found themselves somewhat lost and unemployed, the workshops teach practical and marketable vocational skills from sewing (the students produce many items, including purses, hand-embroidered cushion covers and accessories) to making recycled paper (from scrap paper, into notepads cards and stationery), screen printing and even cookery. These skills not only allow these young adults to earn a much needed family income, but also allow them some independence and in so doing give them hope for the future.
Chitra Lane Academy
Established just over three years ago, the Academy trains/guides parents, staff and care givers on how to rehabilitate and educate children with Special Needs.
How you can help
Chitra Lane does great work in providing a much-needed service for those whose children need special care. The high level of facilities they offer requires significant investment especially in order to help subsidise those from lower income backgrounds. If you want to help you can sponsor a teacher’s salary, or directly sponsor a child at the School, or simply make a donation to Chitra Lane. Alternatively, place an order for the wonderful products made by the young adults of the Shelter Workshops, and help them help themselves. Chitra Lane Sheltered Workshops products are available at Keels Super outlets at Crescat, Union Place and Battaramulla. The Cookery section takes orders and many products are well received, including delicious fish patties and rumour has it, the best Butter Cake in town! For more details: www.chitralane.org