Autism no barrier for Kuhu, who crafts the most amazing jewellery designs
Like many parents, Renu Singh struggled to access the right kind of intervention and support that she needed in the early years for her daughter Arushi (pet name Kuhu) after she was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.
Diagnosed with mild to moderate autism at the age of three, Kuhu is now 12 years old. "With a history of individuals with speech delays in the family, we thought she was a quiet child with a speech delay", recalls Singh. "We were very sure that she would pick up speech and communication as she grew, however that was not the case".
At the time the Singhs were based in Vadodara, where there were inadequate autism specific therapy centres. Kuhu's progress was intermittent with frequent setbacks.
This is a story that would resonate with many families with children on the autism spectrum, but what sets Kuhu apart is the transformation her family was able to bring about in her by focusing on vocational skills.
A change that was enabled after her family moved to Bengaluru in the hope of accessing better therapy options for Kuhu. "When beaded jewellery-making was introduced in Kuhu's vocational training at the Bengaluru school, I saw an opportunity to train her at home as well. To engage Kuhu meaningfully in an activity, which is productive and has a concrete end product to add to the motivation factor, jewellery making was a good option".
Directing a learnt beading skill into an attractive, productive jewellery making skill, found Singh, also had a calming effect and involved using one of Kuhu's strengths, which was hand work. "It helped develop cognitive, communication, socialization and independent work skills".
Today, Kuhu's mother assists her in finishing the jewellery pieces for the range Kuhu's Jewels.
She uses designs conceived by me, and works under my guidance and supervision. She uses pictures and object-level patterns called jigs that I create. Jigs are visual cues to match the beads, create a pattern and string them in the same sequence to make necklaces, earrings and bracelets. She is able to independently create an alternate pattern using two types of beads, without using visual cues. - Renu Singh, Kuhu's mother
Singh started off by gifting Kuhu's creations to her circle of school teachers, friends and family members. The encouragement and support transformed Kuhu into a "happy, cheerful and a confident girl", who went on to pick up multiple skills and showed positive changes. "Her improved learning and her happy demeanour motivated me immensely to expand it to people outside our acquaintance circle", says Singh.
The designs Kuhu puts together are far from simple. They include traditional necklaces set in gemstones to oxidized German silver beads to large filigree jaali work beads. Her skills have attracted a loyal group of customers who return time and again, both for the elegant work as well as the larger thought behind it.
Like Ratna Ashok Mishra, who is based in Dubai, who discovered Kuhu on Facebook.
"I am aware that there are many jewellery ranges and brands and many online outlets, but what I saw in Kuhu's designs and colour combinations is not available elsewhere. It has soul and all the designs reflect the innocence of a child and yet look mature and feminine. It has its Indian-ness, very traditional, yet modern and contemporary".
For Anita Singh, who has bought many sets of Kuhu's Jewels, the appeal lies in the thought behind the entire initiative. "We are getting it from someone who has tried to overcome her weakness into talent and strength, so it's my support and encouragement to the little angel. Kuhu can also be an example to others".
Based on her own experiences, Singh says the larger message to all parents is to stay strong and positive.
"Autism is a life-long disorder and most of our children will need us throughout their lives in some way or the other", says Singh. "It has not been easy for me or my family, it has been exhausting, there are times of hopelessness and extreme pain. Feeling lost, confused and tired comes with the territory. I still have those intermittently, but what has been my conscious effort is "not giving up". I try to stay positive, look happy even if I am not from the inside. Our children are sensitive to our vibes, its better that we keep sending positive vibes
Check out Kuhu's designs on this page - https://www.facebook.com/KuhusJewels/