This is LeLe’s story.
LeLe is a five-year-old boy with down syndrome. He was taken in by Hope Home after being abandoned outside an orphanage in Chiang Mai, Thailand at only 6 months old.
Since arriving at Hope Home, he has progressed in many ways. He can dress and feed himself (a bit messily though), and though he’s not yet potty-trained, he’s nearly there. He knows his numbers, can sort colors, build with bricks, and most of his free time is spent either on the trampoline or engaged with any toys that make sounds. He is able to ride a bike very well, and is getting into sports more and more, especially badminton.
With his loving, fun disposition, Lele’s trademark is his very special giggle, which is well-remembered by all who encounter him. Despite any misperceptions, he CAN learn how to do things and has independent living skills at a reasonable rate for his age. He actively tries to look out for the younger children, and he is very strong and mobile, even if at times he still struggles a bit with gross motor control.
Even though LeLe is independent in some aspects, on a daily basis, his disability affects him in pretty much all developmental areas. He especially struggles with sensory needs, which makes it hard for him to focus, to relate appropriately with others, to feed well, and much more. Luckily, if he follows an established schedule, things tend to run smoother and he has found ways to communicate his needs, albeit not verbally.
Lele is just one of the many children that can greatly benefit from access to a sensory room at Hope Home.
The realities of having disabilities in Thailand.
Children and families of people with disabilities in Thailand aren’t exactly looked at in the light that they should be. Some believe that if you have a disability or your child has a disability, that you have done something wrong in your life. Also, expectations on their ability to learn and function independently are greatly underestimated, so parents often leave medical appointments feeling discouraged, rather than having achievable goals to aim for. As Thailand remains a developing nation, people with disabilities have continued to be limited and there remains an attitude of underachievement toward them. Unfortunately, some people with disabilities are shunned or feel the need to give up their child because of the social and familial struggles they face.
Disabilities services are available for people with Thai citizenship, but there are a lot of people who still cannot access these needed resources. For some families, it is too hard to get away from work or travel to access the right materials. And in general, people with disabilities are unfortunately not treated with the respect they deserve in Thailand.
What would a sensory room mean for LeLe?
In the last 2 years, LeLe’s progression has slowed due to the increase of his sensory issues, so stimulation is needed in his daily schedule. Access to a sensory room would not only be beneficial for LeLe, but for the other children as well. It would create a safe place to desensitize, calm down, and to meet the high sensory needs in a healthy way, rather than self-harming or harming others.
With a steady routine applied to the everyday lives of the Hope Home children and the use of sensory stimulation (i.e. lights, music, hammocks, trampolines, PT balls, soft play equipment, weighted objects, deep pressure massage, walks, and bicycle rides outside, alongside time in the ball pit), they can have a more successful and enjoyable future ahead of them.