Get-hooked April 2, 2021
Autism self-advocate Rudraaksh Karthick starts website to spread awareness about invisible disabilities
Growing up with an invisible disability like autism was not easy for Delhi youngster Rudraaksh Karthick. Over time he realised these attitudes come from a basic lack of awareness. This led him to start what could be India’s first website by a person with autism that seeks to bust the myths about the condition.
Self-advocacy, or the ability to speak on behalf of oneself, is a critical skill to acquire as one moves towards independence. Rudraaksh Karthick’s journey as self-advocate started when he was in school. He was diagnosed with autism at age six, and growing up with a condition of which there is such little awareness, made him aware of the need to find ways of explaining it to classmates.
Difficulties in school
Unlike many other children with autism, Rudraaksh considers himself privileged as his parents did everything within their reach to support him. His childhood, in his words, went by in a daze. The middle school years were a different ballgame altogether.
“I became suddenly more aware of my environment and the fact that there were so many things that came so naturally to others but were so tough for me”, recalls Rudraaksh. This included difficulties in writing and controlling his impulse to walk around the class. “I couldn’t form deeper friendship with my peers because I had this habit of picking one topic which I really liked and talking about it constantly. I could never understand why my friends would walk away after sometime”.
These difficulties were more pronounced in his senior years after he shifted to a new school. While the teachers and a counsellor were understanding, his classmates didn’t get him. “I soon understood that they did not know what exactly autism was. Some thought it meant ‘mental’. That is when I began to think of ways in which I could tell them what my condition was all about”, he says.
Towards self advocacy
In class 12, he made a presentation on autism awareness in school. The response triggered Rudraaksh’s advocacy journey. He decided to do everything in his power to spread awareness and launched Autism Advocacy, a website dedicated to invisible disabilities.
To help a lay person get a larger picture of the struggles, coping mechanisms, the importance of support, speeches were not enough. I wished to compile multiple articles and videos together to present a perspective from a proudly autistic individual and prove that we can contribute to society too. This website is my small effort to encourage more acceptance, remove stigma and help everyone think of disabilities not as something debilitating, but a different ability. – Rudraaksh Karthick, Autism self-advocate
Rudraaksh hopes the website will also encourage people to be more open about their disability because “the more we try to hide our issues thinking it as a stigma, the lesser the opportunities for an open discussion on the means to make life better for all of us as a community”.
Hiding the diagnosis, affects the self-esteem of children and makes them unable to ask for help when they need it.
“I have seen some of my friends’ diagnosis break up families just because one parent was in denial or did not want to accept the changes their child’s disabilities brings in their life. I have watched some of my friends quit their studies or go into open school, when they could have done well enough in the mainstream with all the provisions that the CBSE board gives them if you submit proof of your diagnosis”.
The website has been designed by Rudraaksh and is user friendly. The articles written are from his own life experiences. Rudraaksh, who plans to do his under graduation in computer science or math in the United States, plans to keep adding new content and hopes to encourage more people to share their stories. “I hope this website reaches more and more people, inspire them to work on themselves and lead life the way they deserve to live”.
You can click here to access the website.
Watch in Sign Language
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