Ngawang Lhendrup Namgyel: Journey to Communication

The Situation
Ngawang Lhendrup Namgyel, then a six-year-old frustrated at not being able to communicate, was admitted to Changangkha Lower Secondary School in April 2008 after a referral from the physiotherapy and pediatric department of the National Referral Hospital. According to his mother, “It was his toughest time in his life when he had to cope with the norms of school life, understand his social skills, and communicate in ways the best he could through sounds, cries, and tempers,and being nonverbal. The class teacher had a tough time with his behavioral issues, his classmates patiently understood him, and the special education teachers, like Mrs. Karma Leki and Mrs. Chimi Lhamo,tried to accommodate whatever they knew to change his behavior.”
During 2008 through 2011, the greatest progress seen by his family was his development in social skills. He tried to interact with his peers, and his peers supported him. However, there were sudden emotional outbursts, ignorance to dangers, and dislike for noise that made him unhappy in school. He had to be on regular medication to treat his sudden outbursts.
In 2012, following a period of time at home, he started going back to school. His family saw a great deal of progress with his social skills and patience. He learned to wait, he started gesturing for things he needed, and he could understand and follow the common phrases spoken to him. He loved playing with dough and bubbles.

The Insight
In 2013, as Ngawang grew unusually taller, there was a sea of change in his behavior, his learning, and his social skills. His family noticed that he was far more understanding, patient, and sociable at home and at his school. He developed more of a routine with time and his assembly line, sought permission for his needs, and balanced with his hunger. He seemed ready to increase his communication further.

The Solution
Timely intervention from Ability Bhutan Society volunteers and the expertise and training from the Bhutan Foundation resulted in progress: Ngawang’s maiden step tousing the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), a communication intervention package using pictures. Teacher, Chimi Lhamo introduced the children in her class to PECS and patiently waited for them to make use of it. In April 2013 after Ngawang’s friends succeeded in using PECS, he comprehended its use. Last summer, Ms. Erin Finerity from the Bhutan Foundation’s Special Education Program team,introduced him to sorting colors, more use of PECS, and games.

The Results
Ngawang’s progress impressed Chimi Lhamo, Mrs. Tshering, and ABS volunteer, Mr. Namgay, as Ngwanag used pictures of a knife, scissors, toilet pot, and dough to communicate. In addition, Ms. Finerty’s expertise and techniques opened up Ngawang’s communication skills. Drawing inspiration from the progress made, his parents are introducing him to the use of an iPad with PECS and a ready-made PECS Album that allows him to use pictures of objects to communicate his needs.
Pema Choden, mother and special education coordinator in Changangkha School, said, “Looking back to the progress made by Ngawang and being in Changangkha School was a blessing in disguise in my career, and each and every little progress he has made or makes is a silver lining to our family.”