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Vegetable farming for autistic children

  • UiTM students take the autistic children to the vegetable farm for one more time before the closing ceremony. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Lee Yuan San teaches a child how to harvest water spinach (L); a UiTM student and parent teach a child how to put the seeds into the soil. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • UiTM students will normally “warm up” with the children first before going down to the field. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • UiTM students, children and their parents enjoy growing vegetables together. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

SEGAMAT, Nov 25 (Sin Chew Daily) -- The Association of Resource and Education for Autistic Children (REACH) in Segamat has set up a small vegetable farm planted with tomato, lady finger, water spinach, cucumber, chive, eggplant, bok choy and long bean.

Although the vegetable farm could only have a modest harvest at this moment, it has nevertheless provided a fertile ground for autistic children to learn about farming and other things.

Beginning this September, a group of students from UiTM Segamat have regularly visited the centre to teach the autistic children how to grow vegetables with the hope these children can learn to communicate with one another throughout the process from fertilising to watering and harvesting, while enhancing the public's awareness of autism.

Some 11 students from UiTM are participating in this project while some others are volunteers during the planting events. The whole project involves about 20 students and four teachers.

Before each farming event, the students will first lead the children to dance and sing as a “warm up” exercise, followed by some artistic activities before going down to the field.

Sponsored

The project's 21-year-old coordinator Mohd Adi told Sin Chew Daily the community project was sponsored by Khind Starfish Foundation Projects for Happiness.

He said the objective was to offer assistance to autistic children by teaching them how to grow vegetables while also enhancing public awareness of autism.

“The kids might not like to plant at the beginning, but it is different now! They love to go down to the vegetable farm and understand the planting process.”

He said before each trip to the centre, members of the group will first discuss the most creative ways to teach the children.

After the closing ceremony, members of the group will have to submit a report on their project by December 7.

“We will not stop even after this project has come to an end. We will continue to stay in touch with the centre, and may organise other activities for the children in future.”

Need to establish communication first

23-year-old Nurul Suraya, the assistant project coordinator, said the most challenging part in dealing with autistic children was to establish communication with them,

“Additionally, we lack the experience in planting ourselves but fortunately we have a few members whose families are engaged in farming and they have provided us gloves, seeds, etc. while REACH Segamat assistant secretary Mr Lee Yuan San has offered us help in planting.”

She said while she was sad the project had come to a close, she believed members would continue to visit the centre to take part in its planting programme.

A lesson in responsibility

REACH Segamat assistant secretary Mr Lee Yuan San told Sin Chew Daily the centre had intended to start its own planting programme for the children, but this had been predated by the UiTM initiative.

“UiTM students provide the fertilisers, tools and seeds. They teach the children how to plant. The children now know how the seeds germinate, and they love to go to the farm to water the vegetables.”

He said the centre started with vegetables that are easy to grow such as cucumber and legumes and might consider selling the products to local villagers if the harvest improves in future.

 

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