Strengthening the parent-child bond is key to empowering kids with autism at Aarambh
A few years after her first daughter was born, Sharda Ram found out that the child had autism. This set her off on the search for the best places in her hometown Rajamundry to educate and empower her daughter.
She soon discovered there were few places and that led her to start Aarambh in 2010, which is a school for children with autism. Today, Aarambh reaches out to children in Hyderabad as well.
Before she launched Aarambh, Sharda did a diploma and training programme in autism spectrum disorder in New Delhi. She then moved to Hyderabad, and started the school in partnership with other parents who had kids with autism.
What sets Aarambh apart is that the primary focus here is on enabling families to reach out better to their kids. There are sessions where children and parents sit together. This helps strengthen the bond and build better understanding.
Parents must accept their child's disability and become aware of it. Mothers face a lot of family pressure and hence they are often de-motivated. At the same time, they are primary caregivers of their child since fathers are always out for work. So we focus more on catering to mothers. They are given awareness sessions and training on how to handle their kids. Most of the mothers work at our centre as volunteers along with our special educators. - Sharda Ram, Founder, Aarambh.
Aarambh has a larger goal as well, which is to create awareness about disabilities. It wants to make society empathetic towards children and adults with disabilities.
To do this, they conduct many important initiatives, Like lighting up the famous monument Charminar in blue on World Autism Day on April 2012. They hold autism walks and also convinced authorities to light up the famous Buddha Statue in Hyderabad in 2013. They build confidence in their children through regular talent and fashion shows.
Children between the age group of three to 25 years are part of Aarambh. Apart from basic academics, they are given vocational training too. Their handmade paper covers are sold at departmental stores and boutiques in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They even do saree paining, chocolate-making and handicrafts.
14-year-old Anish R is a student here. His mother Suhasini Rachaputre says Aarambh has enabled him in many ways.
"Anish was eight years old when he joined Aarambh. He has learnt self help skills from the centre and can do many things on his own now. Aarambh ensures that children are always engaged in some kind of work. When Anish comes back home, I make him do the same activities that he did at school. He is good at making products from paper, wall hangings and even painting diyas.".
At Aarambh, children also learn behavioural skills. Every effort is made to ensure the kids grow up to be well rounded human beings.