Helping autistics grow

14th Oct 2012

From Star Online
By Terence Toh

PETALING JAYA: He pulls out the grass and weeds in his mother's garden whenever these overgrow not because he has to, but because he loves to.

Young Soosairaj Francis Jacob, who suffers from autism, has been inspired by his science classes to do these.

It has rekindled a love for gardening under his mum's guidance.

"During his lessons, my son became excited at seeing how beans grow," said teacher Annie Alexander, 50.

"This has instilled a love for gardening in him. At home, he would pull out the grass in my plot. He would also water the plants," she said during the Garden to Kitchen organic garden project at the Special Needs Learning Centre (SNLC) here yesterday.

Her 19-year-old son was "more than delighted to help out" when the centre started the project, said Annie, adding that it gave him a healthy pursuit to balance his studies.
"My son is learning computer skills, but he can't be sitting in front of a computer all day.

"Now, he sees his garden grow, harvests the crops and then cook them," she said.

Soosairaj was among 10 youngsters from the centre who picked up hoes and trowels to plant vegetables, fruit trees and other flowering plants for the project, which is a part of SNLC's vocational skills curriculum.

The garden provides a regular supply of fresh ingredients for cooking, in addition to baking lessons at the centre.

Parent Chin Min Fei, 47, a business development director whose 20-year-old son Shaun is also a project participant, said: "It serves as an extra activity to help him learn where his food comes from."

Chin added: "I'm happy that he's involved in this, which is why our family comes to the centre every week."

SNLC coordinator Rita Anthony said the Garden to Kitchen project firstly served the social function of providing the teenagers with useful life skills such as improving hand-to-eye coordination and preparing meals.

"Secondly, it serves the environmental function of ensuring that the plants grown in this garden do not harm the ecosystem," she said.

The project is coordinated by SNLC and assisted by CETDEM, which provides the technical knowledge on organic farming; and ExxonMobil, which helps to provide financial aid and manpower.