Autistic children are oftentimes associated with the film, “Rain Man”, in the US, and “Children of the Stars” in Taiwan. But each child is unique, and has their own set of needs. According to 2014 findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of every 59 children is born with autism. Within these families, childcare is undertaken predominantly by parents and close family members. This long-term care requires diligence, patience, and sincere efforts, which may cause many families to feel quite overwhelmed at times.
For this reason, Tzu Chi volunteers hold a “Great Love Respite Program” on the third Sunday of each month in the Tzu Chi Washington DC regional office, serving families with autistic children and many others. By providing short-term care for children with cerebral palsy, “low-functioning” autism, SATB2-associated syndrome, and Asperger syndrome, Tzu Chi hopes to allow parents to get some rest while their children are provided with opportunities to engage in various learning experiences, and are provided with professional care that is tailored to their unique needs.
In addition to volunteers, the Tzu Chi Washington team also has a professional speech-language pathologist, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) teachers, art therapy teachers, and Laban Movement Analysis teachers. These professionals help children perform self-sensory perception activities, and encouraging different means of expressing themselves.
They also provide one-on-one language lessons, such as identifying letters and colors, inspiring children’s artistic talents, and learning interests through their artistic creations and music selection. Volunteers essentially become devoted tutors. In addition, senior yoga teachers have been invited to give the children a Mindfulness Yoga Class.
— Equal love and care from volunteers
With the aid of teachers and volunteers alike, children at the Great Love Respite Program receive attentive care. Some children have been found to discontinue certain habits, like biting their hands and clothes. Parents, too, have expressed enthusiasm and gratitude in their children’s continued participation and feel a greater sense of hope for the future.
We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to offer a helping hand in any way we can, for this is truly the greatest wish of all those involved in Tzu Chi’s “Great Love Respite Program”.