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A Special Needs Child Living in the Developing World

special needs childUPDATED Nov. 12, 2012: We are sad to report that Dhanush passed away from Dengue fever. He is survived by his mother Indrani and brother, Dinesh. Dhanush will be greatly missed by all of us.

Sri Lanka is the newest member country of the “Compassion crew” and the Child Survival Program is now present in 18 local churches spreading over Sri Lanka’s western and central provinces.

35 moms and babies are registered in our program in Thotalanga, an area in Sri Lanka known for its poverty.

Indrani and her son, Dhanush attend the Child Survival Program in Thotalanga.

Dhanush is cross-eyed and he cannot speak well. He hits his head hard on the cement floor and he hits the cabinet wood panels with a strong fist. He is a special child.

This three year old is special for many reasons. He suffers from Down’s syndrome. But due to his premature birth and because he didn’t get enough nutrients during the first few months after birth, he also suffers from speech problems and he cannot walk like other children of the same age.

Dhanush has an older brother, Dinesh and they live with their mother in the back section of a main house.

Although this house belongs to Indrani, her brother has taken over that right from her. She is in no position to fight against him because he has money and she doesn’t.

So today she lives with her children in a dark, large room in the back of the house.

Indrani sells betel for a living. Chewing betel is a past time of many labors. It is a local version of chewing gum which leaves one’s mouth blood red in colour.

It is not healthy, but it is a habit that many are addicted to.

When his mother went out to sell betel, Dhanush was left at home, alone. Indrani tearfully shares,

“I didn’t have a choice, I had to go to work. I couldn’t take him with me. It’s hard to handle him.”

Indrani’s mother also lives with her and works as a security guard.

She doesn’t help out in the house or with Dhanush. Indrani must bare the entire brunt of helping the family survive.

She and her family sleep on the ground. They have no bed. They have no electricity, only two kerosene lamps.

When Dhanush first became part of the Child Survival Program, he couldn’t stand. He would lie down on the floor, just the way his mother would place him. He would bang his head hard on the ground and pound his fists against the hard cement ground. For our staff and for Indrani, it was heartache.

Today, Dhanush is one of the many children who are schooled at the Citra Lane School for the Special Child and Child Resource Centre. The Chitra Lane organization is an approved charity that was first started in 1968 as a day school for children with special needs.

This special school helps to educate children with learning disabilities and it also provides physiotherapy for children such as Dhanush. He goes to the school two times a week where he is taught simple motor skills. He is taught to recognize shapes and match them. He is also taught to walk, one small step at a time.

Malini, manager of the Child Survival Program tells us,

“We were lucky to be able to get Dhanush into this school. We received funds from the Complementary Interventions Program to help pay Dhanush’s fees.”

Indrani’s also tells us with a beautiful smile on her face,

“They promised me that they would help my Dhanush walk.”

This promise is coming true, slowly. Dhanush now walks holding on to household items. He understands things better and tries his best to communicate.

He makes eye contact, turning his head towards sounds. He doesn’t hit his head on the ground as much. Dhanush is on his way to improvement. As Indrani watches her son, it is clear that now her tears are of pride and love.