There are always different ways to handle a problem that seems to be impossible to conquer. You can whine about it and complain that no one is doing anything to address the issue – not the community, not the government, not the people who are given the authority to help. Or you can keep quiet and let it be, firmly believing that since this problem does not affect you for the present moment, it is solely someone else’s problem and you can cheerfully ignore it. Or you can choose the hardest path – actually step up and try to solve this problem or failing that, to ameliorate it, so that in times to come there will be a real chance at achieving a viable solution.
Sense Kaleidoscopes was born out of the will to make a difference – to try and find a way to help children with autism develop viable work skills that can lead to their independent existence in society. Autism in India has never been properly recognized or understood. It is often confused with mental retardation. Autism is a complex disorder that affects 1 in 70 children and usually boys rather than girls. It is a spectrum disorder that manifests in widely differing ways so that one autistic child may have completely different symptoms from the next one. There are a few basic symptoms that one sees across the spectrum but the variations are seemingly endless. This is the single biggest challenge that one faces while dealing with autism – there is no one-size-fits-all solution that you can apply. The need to work individually with each child makes the existing centres and schools that deal with autism in Bangalore quite ineffective in bringing about change.
A host of early intervention centres can be found in Bangalore but the number of places that offer to train the child after the age of twelve is negligible. There are vocational centres that club children and young adults affected with autism, cerebral palsy and mental retardation together and teach candle-making or agarbathi-rolling for instance. Very few centres focus on equipping the children on the autism spectrum with higher end skills like data entry or software testing. It is possible for autistic children to perform well in these fields as in many other. The inherent strengths of these children have never been utilized in the way they should be. The attention to detail, painstaking focus, excellent recall and extreme precision exhibited by many of these children make them perfect candidates for certain kinds of software jobs. Their process-oriented nature makes it easy for them to learn skills that can be taught in a step-by-step fashion. The increasing numbers of children that are diagnosed with autism makes it clear that if we do not have a plan to educate and integrate these children into the society and accept them into the community with open hearts, we will be faced with a generation of children whom we cannot help. Autism is here to stay – ignoring it will not make it disappear.
This then is why Akshayee Shetty and I (Anima Nair) decided to take this step and start what we hope to grow into a world class arts-based vocational centre for children and young adults on the autism spectrum. Sense Kaleidoscopes is our dream in progress. Our vision is to show the world how these children can grow and be productive. We hope for their eventual acceptance – we hope that more people will support them and their cause – we hope to one day bring these badly ignored children into the light and show the world their smile.
— Anima Nair