|▲ President Im Shin-hwa|
April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day. South Korea responded with ‘Light Up Blue’ asking people to have interest in autistic people. Experts advise parents to face the issue boldly rather than passively and to take action and treatment for improvement despite the lack of public awareness on autism in Korea. <Power Korea> met Im Shin-hwa, the president of the Dream Whale Playground Parents Cooperative, an organization for children with developmental disorder, and also a mother of two autistic children.
Prejudice is the problem
The members of the cooperative are parents and therapists. The beginning was that they agreed on the point that playing can be a good tool to improve the symptoms so they invited normal children to play along with autistic children. During the vacations, they share child rearing and education.
“Experts say that developmental disorder is caused by imbalance of the five senses. Among 15 disorder areas, developmental disorder comes from expressive language disorder. Parents have under enormous pressure but people’s prejudice makes situation harder” says Im.
On finding her two children are autistic, she had taken them to treatment centers here and there for a while but came to realize that it was her who has to play the main role. She launched self-study, obtained certificates and formed the organization.
“The treatment centers were too expensive. A 40 minute session including 10 minute counseling costed $88. What was more, the teachers were part timers and they didn’t seem to be properly treated either. And I felt the need of an alternative.”
The fee was reduced to $31 for a 40 minute session and 15 full time teachers with expertise in art, language, playing and cognition received positive feedback from parents. 12 children at the opening of the cooperative increased to 75 within 2 years and the member parents from 20 to 120.
They also have their talent
The programs include job training for adults with developmental disorder to make their career as children’s book writer, care workers and more. “It is wrong people with developmental disorder might be able to do only simple handworks but they have their own talent which others lack. So the programs focus on maximizing their talent.”
The cooperative was recognized as a provisional social enterprise by Gyeonggi Province in November 2011. Taking the momentum, Im pushed forward the business and opened branches in Dontan, Hwaseong City and Suwon City in addition to the headquarters in Bongdam, Hwaseong City.
“You might think people with developmental disorder are not happy. But they can be as happy as normal people. My advice is not to try to collect them but accept and be as normal as others. And we are here to help when you need help.”
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