“Children with autism are colorful - they are often very beautiful and, like the rainbow, they stand out.” – Adele Devine (Author, Special Needs Teacher)
Autism is not a disease! Children with autism may not be like other children. They certainly do not learn like normal ones but they are not sick. Autism is considered an incurable disability. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects an individual's social interaction, communication and behavior.
Reports suggest that 1 in 500 or 0.20% or more than 2,160,000 people in India are on the autism spectrum. Yet, a large majority of our people are not aware of this disorder. In fact, we have seen people shunning those suffering from autism in a disrespectful manner. Many times, they are treated like mentally ill people for no fault of theirs.
Parents and guardians of such children live in shame and guilt. Everyday they face humiliation because of inadequate awareness and social stigma associated with Autism spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism Awareness in our country needs momentum. These children deserve early diagnosis, special care and attention, specially designed curriculum and autism-friendly firms that employ them.
Every year World Autism Awareness Day is observed on April 2nd 2021. This year's theme is to promote 'Inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World. In our country where we do not have a system for early diagnosis of children with ASD especially among the underprivileged, employment of adults with ASD seems a distant dream. People with autism have a right to lead a dignified life like others. Education and employment is a prerequisite.
There are schools which cater to special children and train them. However, these facilities are available to those who can afford it. NGOs and voluntary organizations are doing a commendable job in training these children and still, there is a long way to go. We need a system that recognizes the creative, mathematical, literary and organizational abilities of people with ASD and companies that are ASD friendly.
Once these children transition to adulthood, many schools are either not ready or lack the facilities to train them. They need training programs and employment opportunities to fulfill their dreams and to be self dependent economically.
Deepalaya runs a unique programme called "Sambhav project" to mainstream children with special needs. The word ‘Sambhav’ means ‘possible’. This project was inaugurated in 1998-99 and was later adopted by the Laj Jagadish Foundation founded by Mr. Jyoti Sagar in 2014. We educate these children with life skills and help them lead a normal life in society. The project celebrated "World Autism Awareness day" in a unique way.
For the last one year, our beneficiaries could not visit the centre due to Covid-19 restrictions. For our ten beneficiaries with Autism, it was a gala day as they could visit the centre, which has acquired a new look since the lockdown. All thanks to Mr. Jyoti Sagar. The staff did an activity with the children with their painted hands. The different colors of their hand impressions represent the abilities of these young children. They reflect their aspirations and those of their family members. Our Project Coordinator Ms. Kalpana Das and our team associates (Ms. Parul Kashyap, Mr. Chanchal Singh Rawat and Ms. Shivani Sagar) were happy to help our special children express their emotions through the activities held on April 1st at the Centre.
“Anything is possible. If I can do it, so can you!” says Dani Bowman, founder of DaniMation Entertainment and Autism Advocate who is on the autism spectrum. The lives of Sir Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, Tim Burton, Emily Dickinson, Susan Boyle, Stanley Kubrik, Lewis Carol, Steve Jobs, Andy Warhol, Willian Butler Yeats and many others are inspiration to people with ASD. They have shown that Autism is not a disability; rather it can be turned into possibilities that can create history and benefit mankind.
The handprints of our students with Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other associated conditions of Project Sambhav are a gentle reminder of their dreams and aspirations. They indicate a deep sea of possibilities amidst several regressive thoughts.
The immediate need is to embrace them as they are and explore these possibilities, make them realize their potential, and help them achieve what may sound impossible. This is what SAMBHAV is all about. You can be a part of this journey of possibilities by creating awareness and supporting such children.