AAHAN was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was around five years old. He also had a speech impairment and did not interact with others like children do. Aahan attended regular school but could not make friends. He was unable to connect with people around him, including his family members. The doctors had said that he wouldn’t make it past class 2. But he did, and reached Class 10.
There are many like Aahan on the Autism Spectrum who have been able to overcome the odds with the efforts of their parents, teachers and guidance from experts. Nurturing mothers have been instrumental in the growth and development of their children with Autism.
Autism is the third most common developmental disorder in the world, a neurological condition occurring generally by the age of three. Autism is usually marked by differences in development in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction and engaging in repetitive behaviour. Also known as a ‘spectrum disorder’, Autism’s severity varies from a mild learning and social disability, to multiple difficulties and often strange behaviour. The condition also leads to qualitative impairments and uneven skill development.
Autism in India
It is estimated that there are over 18 million people with Autism in India. Statistics also reveal that the number of children in India diagnosed with Autism are on the rise. Factors like low awareness, lack of basic facilities and improper diagnosis, among others, have contributed to a staggering increase in the number of Autism cases in the country.
Around 1% to 1.5% of the children in the age group of 2-9 years are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Around 10% of school-going children have been diagnosed with mild to severe learning challenges. A major reason for the delay in diagnosis is because the condition is often misinterpreted as mental retardation or even schizophrenia. With the rapid advancement of technology, in-depth medical research is being carried out to determine the causes responsible for ASD.
Today, on World Autism Awareness Day, here’s a look at the top five Indian NGOs that are making huge strides in creating a more inclusive world for people with Autism.
Action for Autism (AFA) pioneered the Autism movement in South Asia, and strives to access the rights of individuals with Autism and their families. The key areas of AFA’s work are Education, Awareness, Research, Training, Advocacy. They direct their efforts to facilitate a barrier free environment that enables the empowerment of persons with Autism and their families; and act as a catalyst to enable persons with Autism to live as fully participating members of the community. AFA has helped over 16,000 families in the past decade.
AFA also partners with other organisations to increase acceptance of and inclusivity for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). AFA has also successfully lobbied to include Autism in primary disability legislation. It has been instrumental in including Autism in the working draft of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2011.
The trust is dedicated to changing the lives of children on the Autism spectrum. Established in 1989 in Chennai, Swabodhini’s efforts empower and instill self-confidence in children with special needs through quality education, structured training and therapy services. The organisation helps individuals with Autism to reach their potential through all-round development enabling them to lead an independent life with dignity in mainstream society.
They started by helping four children and now assist and enable over 60 differently abled students. The Swabodhini Special School provides Special Education and training along with speech therapy and occupational therapy services.
CADRRE was founded in 2017 to care for children on the Autism spectrum. It was the first school in Kerala to offer an individualised program with a focus on academics along with therapy and life skills exclusively for students with Autism and related disabilities. Their aim is to bring about a significant change in the lives of children affected with ASD through family-centered holistic care and best practice principles. Their inclusive approach and a range of services focus on creating a conducive environment in the society where persons with ASD are able to realize their full potential.
It imparts functional academics, activities of daily living and vocational skills such as block and screen printing, soap making, decoupage, woodwork, cooking, and pottery to its students. Ayurveda, yoga, music therapy, art therapy, dance and movement therapy along with conventional therapy are provided to all the students.
Arvind Foundation is a charitable organisation with the sole aim of providing equal opportunities and bringing in independent, comprehensive and curative education to underprivileged children with special needs. This includes children challenged with cerebral palsy, Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Down’s syndrome, dyslexia and a number of other neurological disorders.
By educating individuals with special needs or different abilities, equipping them with life skills and training them to be as independent as possible, the foundation is bringing them closer to a meaningful and respectful adulthood. From a humble beginning of caring for two children, today they have six day-care centres providing assistance to nearly 140 children and young adults with special needs.
A school and home for children and adults with special needs, Vasantham, since its inception in 1989, has empowered thousands of such individuals and their families. Services such as Special Education, communication therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, vocational training, yoga, dance, music, play and several activities are provided based on every student’s interest and needs.
Vasantham runs predominantly through support from several well-wishers and organisations. It continues to also raise awareness and sensitise the general public about developmental disorders.
Few understand what it is like to live with a person affected with Autism Spectrum Disorder as the level of awareness is very low. One cannot tell if a person has Autism merely by appearance and in a way this makes it all the more difficult to deal with Autism-affected individuals.
Evidence-based therapy programs are impacting an autistic child’s development trajectory to bring it close to normal. The earlier this intervention, the better the outcome for the child, family, and the community. Both early intervention and effective policy-making will go a long way in addressing the needs of autistic children and bringing them into mainstream society.
Established in 2000, GiveIndia is India’s most trusted giving platform for donors. Our community of 1.5M+ donors and 150+ corporate partners have supported 2,000 nonprofits, impacting 10M+ lives across India.
Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.