Reena Singh, CEO of Khushi Pediatric Centre, tells us why they organise the Autism Cause-a-thon, a run for raising awareness around autism.
This year’s Cause-a-thon is being managed by individuals with autism and other special needs. Right from creating the medals and giveaways to serving refreshments to participants, everything is going to be done by them!
It began in 2000 when Reena started out as an occupational therapist. Reena was then sharing space with another doctor. One of her first patients was a 10-year-old with autism. While he was waiting for Reena to talk to his mother, the child paced around the waiting area, flapping his hands, running from one end of the room to the other making strange sounds.
In minutes, the waiting area was empty. Within a few days, Reena received a notice from the doctor she was sharing space with to vacate the premises. “I was told that my patients scared his patients. I wanted to explain that the flapping and the sounds were just the child’s way of waiting. I felt extremely helpless and wanted to change things,” says Reena.
In another instance, Reena took a group of her children with autism to the garden for a session. Since it was evening, the garden was crowded and there was a lot of noise in the background. Some of the children from the group began flapping their arms, their way of dealing with stress.
Again, the garden feel silent within minutes. “I was told not to bring the paagal children to the garden. And that we were scaring the other kids,” Reena says.
Once a mom to a 9-year-old child with a moderate form of autism came to Reena. Her son had been “removed” from school because he was not “improving”. The mother confessed to Reena that she had decided to commit suicide along with her son and had even gone upto the refuge area in her apartment building to do so but decided against it.
“I was shocked and had goosebumps. I decided no mother who comes to me will ever feel the way she felt,” Reena adds.
There are many-a-positive stories too!
There was a 3-year-old that Reena worked with. His mother, a CA, was at the peak of her career when she came to Reena and was willing to give up everything to help her child. The child was non-cooperative initially, would cry his lungs out and was non-verbal. Within a year, he began talking, complying and doing things that children his age do.
“His mother did not return to her erstwhile career, She now works with children who have autism to help them acheive what her son did,” says Reena.
There was another child who Reena worked with since 3 years of age. The child has cleared her IGCSE exams and is preparing for Class 12 boards. “Nothing could stop her as long as her parents believed in her and now she has started believing in herself too,” Reena adds.
On the kind of satisfaction that she gets from her work, Reena says, “I get a pat on my back from my conscience. Nothing in this world can give me that sense of satisfaction I get when I work with kids. I am living a life of my dreams”.
The Khushi Pediatric Therapy Centre has been organising awareness efforts in various ways since 2008. Sachin Tendulkar was part of the first event held in 2008 and in 2009 his wife Anjali and Bollywood playback singer Shaan participated again.
But the campaign picked momentum in 2013 when the first Cause-a-thon was launched. People from all walks of life participated and many of them continued to be associated with the organisation by volunteering to work with them.
Khushi has several dedicated volunteers in this endeavour. “Naomi, one of our dedicated supporters has her birthday on April 5. Since the past 2 years she has been celebrating her birthday by inviting her friends to the cause-a-thon. Another volunteer, Anushree, is now a child counsellor and works with children who have autism,” a proud Reena says
“Another volunteer, Sanjana, has moved to the US. She works as a babysitter in her spare time and sends half her salary for children who cannot afford therapy on their own,” Reena adds.
Each year, the Cause-a-thon aims at reducing the stigma around Autism and sensitise people.
Want to run for the cause? Sign up for the cause-a-thon at www.causeathon.in and run!
Also read: Busting Myths Around Autism
Explore the entire collection of articles: Special Needs