Six years ago Dr. Saidul Sarker was told his son Nayeem had autism. Struggling to come to terms with the diagnosis and not knowing where to turn for services in his home country of Bangladesh, it was Dr. Sarker's mother-in-law who told him about Heartspring.
"She was visiting Chicago for a professional conference and mentioned to her colleagues that her grandson was in need of services," said Sarker. "She said they got on the Internet and started searching, and found Heartspring. We then made contact and have been trying to get here for over two years now."
Over the course of a month, Nayeem and Dr. Sarker lived at Heartspring, attending special education classes and working with Heartspring staff members to help Nayeem become more independent. The training that they both received gives them new hope as they return home to Bangladesh.
"America is more developed for children with special needs," said Dr. Sarker. "I hope to go home and start a program there, so other kids like Nayeem will have a chance and their families will have a better life. All the professionals at Heartspring are amazing, superb. They are doing a good thing.
Before that, my son was very much hyper. He could stay in his seat for a couple of minutes, but now I am seeing that with the teacher and the staff, they’re doing a very good job. And now my son is sitting in the school classroom for almost one hour. It’s a remarkable thing for me. It’s almost unbelievable to me.
Secondly, he has a routine. Every day, every classroom has a routine. He has some tasks with which he needs to think something. Say, for example, a problem in matching some color objects together. So he has to think something, and when he did this job he has a break. And he can go for a walk for a distance, and he can again come and again do the same things.
All kids learn by repetition. Especially those kids who are autistic, who need this special support, they need much more repetition. It can be thousands of repetitions. So they’re doing these things, teaching these kids in a repeated way, but not making them, [impressing on] their brain. They can do this happily, so they can learn themselves very easily. And I understand, they’re doing these things very nicely. I’m happy to see these things.
And at the same time, you know, he’s coming to school, having his breakfast on his own. He has to take the trays, then he has to go to the silverware carts, maybe, to show that I need these things and to get them, and go to the table, bring his forks, and bring his everything. It’s his normal house activity, you know, he’s getting these things. He’s getting a remarkable experience. And also, even in the lunch, he’s doing the same things.
They have some different classes. Sometimes he has to go to multiple-sensory rooms where he can be stimulated. So these things, the whole school from, say, 8:00 up to 2:30 he’s busy with a kind of schedule, with a purposeful schedule. It will help him; definitely help him to have some kind of activity with him. This is very important for an autistic child, a special kind of school which we have a lack of back in my country.
And also, between this part, if he needs it, he has some leisure to go to gym and do some, say, treadmills or some bicycling. This also helps him very much.
But, in the home, the most important part is the home, you know. See, back in my country, at home he was doing nothing, but in the home he is doing everything. Everything. It means from getting snacks, he’s finishing the snacks, he’s washing his table, he’s taking his plates to the sinks. He’s wearing his downs (dressing himself). He’s making the rooms clean. And also, he’s washing. He’s taking his shower independently. He can wear his pants, socks, shirts, everything independently. It’s a dramatic thing for me.