Autism is on the rise all over the world. It has been attributed to environmental factors, as well as a genetic predisposition. It is characterised by the ability of the child/person to communicate effectively, leading to a deep sense of rejection and deprivation. This has been well portrayed in KRISHNA NARAYANAN'S "Wasted Talent" - Musings of an Autistic.
The use of computers could be a means to channalise this frustration. Keeping this in mind, "Inspiration" agreed to collaborate with The Anil Karanjai Memorial Trust to conduct a 7-day workshop to be conducted by Dr. Arun Mehta ,a well-known computer scientist, who has been working with other disabilities, particularly with visually & orthopaedically handicapped.
When we started with this we were not sure what to expect, as such a workshop has never been held for the autistic population. Inspiration undertook to identify children/persons on different levels of the autism spectrum, from different parts of India. The boarding & lodging of participants and their escorts were also taken up by the Centre. There was a lot of enthusiasm among the children and carers, and the 7-days went off in a jiffy.
One participant from Raphael Home, who had to be taken away before the completion of the workshop, due to the pre announced summer holidays, had reportedly become agitated when the parents arrived. When urged by his teacher to type out the reason for his agitation, he typed "van?" and "computer?" This was indeed an eye opener and a success! A boy from rural India and autistic too, was able to express his emotions, and desire to stay back and continue with the workshop!
During these 6 days, Dr. Mehta modified a few soft wares to suit the needs of this group. The whole proceedings were filmed, and will soon be released as a movie by Mrs. Juliet Reynolds, Trustee, The Anil Karanjai Memorial Trust.
This workshop was sponsored by the IT Dept. Uttaranchal Govt. and supported by the Social Welfare Dept. The Secretaries of both these departments visited the workshop and highly appreciated the efforts. The follow-up is now being worked out.