Special Children Simply ROCKED with their Hidden talents at ‘Dhwani’ to mark ‘World Autism Day’

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Special Children Simply ROCKED with their Hidden talents at ‘Dhwani’ (means Platform), a programme to create Awareness about Autism to mark ‘World Autism Day’, which was organized by AJ Institute of Medical Science & Research Centre, Mangaluru and ARIVU Trust, Shakthinagar, Mangaluru in association with Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP)-DK Chapter on 4 April 2022 at AJ Medical College Auditorium. Dhwani is a collective effort by all these sectors to create an ecosystem where People with Autism can be integrated into the society

Mangaluru: Special Children aka Differently-abled Children got talents-That’s True! And their hidden talents in the form of singing and dancing were witnessed by the audience assembled for the programme “DHWANI”, which means “Platform” in order to bring awareness about Autism to mark World Autism Day, which was held at AJ Hospital Auditorium, organized by A J Institute of Medical science and Research Centre and ARIVU Trust, in association with Indian Academy of Pediatrics-DK Chapter on Monday, 4 April 2022. A large number of differently-abled students belonging to Arivu Trust; Chetana Special School; Riya Foundation; (and Yash Trust concluded the programme with their trustee Ms Durgalakshmi, a Special Mother with an Autistic son (a champion in swimming) giving an awareness talk) unleashed their hidden talents in the form of singing and dancing -proving to the august gathering that they too can “Dance, Sing and Act”, even though they were mentally challenged/differently-abled.

And for the fact, I too was astonished at the various performances rendered by them during the entire programme. These children simply enthralled the audience, and everyone who was glued to their seats watching these “Special Children” perform so good just like “Normal Children”, were amazed and went “Wow”, applauding them after the performance. Special Programmes like the one today (Dhwani) for Special Children/Persons are not about “them.” It’s about all of “us”. It takes all of us, who are willing to open our minds and hearts and accept people with intellectual disabilities, to help them unleash their hidden talents by encouraging and supporting them. We should note that any special programme or event for Special Children and adults (aka Differently-abled) is no longer just an event- it is a movement, inviting the world not just to attend programmes/events but to think, feel, and act differently about everything – to come help create a world of acceptance and inclusion for all. Families are the true champions of Special Events and their challenges of raising a special needs child. And the teachers and parents by their sides, these children and adults with disabilities seemed very happy, and enthusiastic and were eagerly waiting to unleash their talents and ROCK the stage and enthral the audience.

Through the power of talents imbibed in them, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. These programmes find joy, confidence and fulfillment, on the stage and in life. They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential. With training and support from their teachers, these special children strive to beat their personal bests, defying the odds again and again. No doubt from performing locally to the shining stage of State, National, and World Games, these special Heroes showcase the talents and triumphs of people with intellectual disabilities. And for the fact, all the special children/adults who performed today proved that they too can shine like other regular children/people- and they did!

And all this fun and frolic put forth by these Special Children was at the programme ‘Dhwani’, an autism awareness Program to create awareness about Autism. April is Autism awareness month. With a staggering one in 86 children being affected with Autistic features, it is the need of the hour to educate and create awareness in society. Dhwani is a collective and collaborative voice of Autism supported by Health Care (AJ Medical College and Indian Academy of Pediatrics), Rehabilitation Specialists (Arivu Center, AJ Physiotherapy department) and Netaji Physiotherapy College) and advocacy specialists like Disability NGO alliance.

Autism is a neurological condition that impairs a child’s speech, behaviour and social skills. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, a majority of countries announced the temporary closure of schools, impacting more than 90 per cent of students worldwide. Many students with autism have been especially hard hit and studies show that they have been disproportionately affected by disruptions to routines, as well as services and supports that they rely on. Professionals and families have to develop sustainable goals to help families with autistic children. Inclusive education is the key to the transformative promise of the Sustainable Development Goals, to LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND Dhwani was an attempt to create a voice for kids affected by Autism, provide their families support, training and advocacy. A collective approach is required to educate and mitigate the problem.

While A.J Institute of Medical Sciences is a brilliant, futuristic Endeavour of the Laxmi Memorial Trust (R); a premier educational organization that is the brainchild of educationist and philanthropist Dr A J Shetty. AJIMS is aimed to provide a global perspective of medical education to achieve the national objective of “Health for All”. Its enduring efforts have put Mangalore on the global map of medical education. The institution nurtures a vision “To establish as a premier institution imparting medical education that effectively combines high academic exposure, professional outlook and commitment to humanitarian values.”. Other patrons behind this project are Ms Sharada J Shetty, Prashanth Shetty, Ms Ashritha Shetty, Dr Prashanth Marla and Dr Amitha Marla, all belonging to Laxmi Memorial Trust (R)

And also, the Indian Academy of Pediatrics is committed to the health and well being of all children. For this purpose, the Academy dedicates its efforts and resources. The Academy strives for the achievement of the optimum growth, development and health in the physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual realms of all children irrespective of their diversities and background. Disability NGO Alliance brings together NGOs working for People with Disabilities or PWDs. They focus on capacity building and advocacy.

The programme began with a prayer sung by the special children of Arivu Trust, invoking God’s blessings, followed by a welcome address by Dr Shri Krishna G N, President of IAP. Ms Poornima Bhat-the Founder/Director of Arivu Trust and her husband Dr Radhakrishna Bhat, Treasurer, Arivu Trust, both gave a brief history of Arivu Trust, and their journey as what made them start Arivu Trust after their son was born with Down Syndrome in the USA, after which they decided to come back to Mangaluru and open this rehabilitation centre for differently-abled children, which they both feel was the right move they made, and want to form an Advocacy, to fight for the rights of special children who are ignored or neglected.

Ms Poornima Bhat said that Arivu is an NGO established by the parents of a child with a disability. “We believe that Parents and Teachers are the crucial pillars in the overall development of a child. At Arivu, we aim towards a life-changing early intervention for children diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, Dyslexia, Down’s syndrome and other special needs by providing therapy and training,” added Ms Bhat.

Dr Ashok Hegde, Dean, AJ medical college speaking on the occasion said, “I commend Arivu Trust for organizing this programme to create awareness about Autism and highlighting the importance, which is the need of the hour. Various problems arise through Autism, but programmes like these will raise awareness among the public and convince them to help those with autism and also those who take care of autistic people. If children with autism are trained well, they do have a good future, and many have taken up responsibilities at different workplaces. Parents should believe in the children having autism, and should not neglect or avoid them because there will be success if you have a will and faith. Therefore, love and care for your children if they are autistic”.

Dr Santosh Soans, HOD, Department of Pediatrics at AJ Hospital also spoke saying, “I remember once during a programme where D. Veerendra Heggade, a philanthropist and the hereditary administrator/Dharmadhikari of the Dharmasthala Temple said that Children with Autism are also Children of God- and I believe it’s true. We need a large number of teachers to train those with autism since children with autism also have a better future if they are trained and treated well. Respect the child for who he/she is with autism; Understand their diagnosis; Standardized tests are not a true indication of what a child can do; Presume competence, and Care about the child’s happiness and well-being. If you are a parent or grandparent of a child with Autism, it can be heartbreaking if you feel like you just can’t connect with him or her. But learning more about these disorders and what has helped others can help you and your relationship. Remember there is hope through treatment for autism. Many children can learn to communicate and interact. Healthcare providers and mental health experts have learned a lot about how to break through to these children”.

Gopalakrishna, Disability officer, DK speaking on the occasion gave details of the schemes, benefits and other incentives that the government is offering for those with autism and differently-abled persons, including children. Students of PG in Pediatrics and students from the Department of Physiotherapy of AJ Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre gave a mesmerizing dance performance that received loud applause from the audience. Mutthuraj, the co-founder, of Sarvamangala Trust, also graced the occasion. The vote of thanks was delivered by Dr Abhishek K Phadke, Secretary IAP, and the programme was meticulously and professional compered by Dr Meghana Rao- I-year PG in Dept of Pediatrics at AJ Institute of Medical Science & Research Centre. On the occasion “Varnapatala”, a movie on Autism acted by a Special mother released its trailer and interacted with autistic children. The movie has Suhasini Maniratnam in a pivotal role.

ABOUT ‘VARNAPATALA’ meaning ‘SPECTRUM’:

Varnapatala (Sanskrit, Hindi, and Kannada word) translates to Spectrum. Varnapatala is a movie based on real-life experiences depicting the relationship between a mother and a child and also about ‘Autism‘ which affects children. The film represents the idea that if the right input is given to children and young people with autism, then rainbows can be the output from them. After all, many famous persons like Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Bobby Fischer, Charles Darwin, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Lewis Carroll, Steve Jobs and many more rose to great heights and achieved excellence despite being autistic.

L-R: Child artists Miss Anshika Shetty and Anoop Sagar

The cast of the movie includes Ms Jyothi Rai, Anoop Sagar, Suhasini Maniratnam, Anshika Shetty, Dhanika Hegde and Srikanth Heblikar among others. The movie is Written and Directed by Chethan Mundadi. The movie will be released on 8 April 2022 in DRC and INOX theatres.

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