Awareness, therapy and special educational interventions are the key elements of Dr Archana Nayar’s mission to help autistic children.
“They reach for the moon to break a piece off;
The incandescent egg the sun has laid.
It’s a wonderful world if we care to know it;
they are a part of us to share our lives with.”
Gulzar’s poem, in the documentary Closer by Meghna Gulzar, draws our attention to the world of an autistic child which often seems far removed unless one attempts to move closer to it with attenntive care.
“The only way one can help with an autistic child is by participation. And it does happen that mostly mothers are more involved. But fathers and grandparents who are not so involved with the kids are actually missing out on a lot. Because it is very rewarding too. A child with autism shows results and that can be very rewarding. If your spouse is actively involved, it can make your family life better. Mothers carry a lot of burden, specially when they are homemakers. It is a lot of pressure. Simple involvement from the partner would help and there should be awareness for that, which we are working for as well,” says Dr Archana Nayar, founder of Autism Centre for Excellence.
Archana, along with her husband, founded the center in 2014, for children in the age group of three to 15 years. Her own son being autistic, inspired her to take this step. “I moved to India from USA and realised the struggles of parents with autistic children. Doctors here are not specifically trained to handle autism, they sort of end up learning on the job. While experience is a great thing, one should have professional knowledge while dealing with autistic kids,” she shares.
The centre provides therapy as well as helps with diagnostics. “There is almost a ratio of one child per teacher here and it helps a lot in development of a child. While kids at the centre are funded by parents here, almost 40 per cent of the kids are funded by the centre as well,” she reveals.
She shares that one of the many challenges a parent can faces is having expectations. “Without realising it, you have expectations from your child. You want your child to study, grow up, have a career and a family. But to come to terms with the fact that none of these things will happen for your child is a tough task. Another big challenge can be not knowing what your child wants and the inability to communicate. So not only do the children need therapy, parents too need therapy and a lot of awareness,” she says.
Children with autism can get very aggressive, can’t cope with regular educational programs and can be hyper active. “When this is happening all day, every day, year after year, it can be very difficult. There also needs to be more sensitivity around what one can ask the parents of children with autism. While Bollywood has attempted making films on autism, none of these came close to the reality of what autism actually is. Our centre is also working towards breaking myths related to autism and spreading awareness. As awareness, therapy and special educational intervention can help a lot.”
Autism Centre for Excellence will be conducting a program on Mother’s Day to spread awareness about autism among parents at the centre as well.