A shoulder to lean on

A shoulder to lean on

BUILDING awareness

A shoulder to lean on

Children with autism often do not get the support system they need to lead their lives. This is where the I Support Foundation comes to the rescue, learns Sumalatha N

Many children do not have the luxury of a normal childhood. So, how can we expect good behaviour from them without setting a model for them?”questions Juhi Ramani as we engage in a conversation. Juhi moved to Bengaluru a couple of years ago from Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh to take up a job in an IT company.

Soon after, she founded a civil society organisation, called ‘I Support Foundation’, to support children suffering from autism. The reason to begin the organisation stemmed from a personal experience. Juhi’s brother, Shivam, who was diagnosed with autism, had to suffer due to the insensitive nature of the society. The treatment affected the family and as a result, they had to struggle endlessly from getting a proper school that can teach children with autism to protecting the child from  negative remarks.

As they experienced the challenges first-hand, Juhi and her sister Bobby, decided to work for the cause of children with autism. While Bobby opened a school for such children in Lucknow, Juhi initiated awareness activities in Bengaluru. “People have very limited information and awareness about children with autism. Identifying the problem at an early stage and providing necessary support is very important to ensure overall growth of the child,” states Juhi. Though the organisation is registered in Lucknow, the branch in Bengaluru is actively raising awareness through various initiatives.

Innovative fundraisers

“According to the statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, one in 88 children suffer from autism. When my brother was diagnosed, the entire family had to suffer and it took time to overcome the trauma. This led me to create a campaign that raises more awareness about autism,” says Juhi. The organisation does not just help children with autism; it in fact, also helps children who are socially and economically deprived. Additionally, Juhi’s organisation also gets support form the corporate section, with hundreds of employees volunteering with them to raise awareness and lead empowerment programmes.

To raise funds for the various outreach programmes and activities, the organisation has taken an innovative route. During weekends, the volunteers visit various areas of the City and sell tea. And as customers sip on their tea, the volunteers talk to them about the symptoms of autism and how parents should deal with the problem. Additionally, they also touch upon the necessary therapies and give contacts of experts who are working in the field. The organisation is also in touch with various experts like psychiatrists and speech therapists who are working for the cause.

To extend their support to more autistic children, the organisation also works closely with schools where autistic children are studying. Here, they organise various events and activities that include sports, counselling, science and language learning.

Furthermore, every Saturday, volunteers team up and visit various schools across the City to engage children in useful sessions. Teachers have been supportive while students enthusiastically participate in the activities.

Extending their support

Along with autistic children, the organisation has been working with slum children and encouraging them to stay in education. It conducts workshops on the importance of education and to create awareness on related laws and schemes. So far, it has provided free medical check-ups in schools, career counselling to over 5,000 children. It has been working towards eradicating child labour under the banner ‘Hifazat — Protecting the precious’.

“Awareness, educate and impact is the motto of the organisation. Education is key to everything. Considering this, we are giving utmost importance to education,” elaborates Juhi.
To reach out more effectively in a world that is technologically connected, the organisation’s technical experts have developed an app, Autism Care, that provides detailed information on autism. This is the first such app to be developed for public use in India. The app details symptoms, remedies, experts in the field, and steps parents should follow while grooming such children. It also provides information about special educators, speech pathologists and psychiatrists who are working in the field. The app can be downloaded on the link www.goo.gl.KASVKB

As for the future, Juhi is planning to open a school exclusively for autistic children in Bengaluru. She also plans to open a restaurant where physically challenged people manage the show. For more details about the organisation, contact Juhi at juhi.mramani@gmail.com.

(Translated by AP)

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