Helping children with Autism in India
The Helping Hands organisation is striving hard to enrich the lives of underprivileged children with autism and other learning and behavioural differences, while also raising awareness among society.
- According to research, one in every hundred children under the age of 10 is somewhere on the Autism spectrum.
- People from poor economic backgrounds lack knowledge of ASD or access to get help for it.
- Helping Hands Organisation (H2O) is a not-for-profit based out of Kerala, India which provides support and help to underprivileged children with Autism and other Learning and Behavioural differences.
There is a peacock which visits the children at the group therapy centre, every morning. Wild, but just about there to make us feel his presence. His plumes, bright in colour, attract the attention of a boy, who then starts pointing to all the colours around him which that the bird’s feathers.
And so, first thing in the morning, a therapy session for the children with Autism at H2O, has already begun. And this is how the rest of the week will go – finding objects and incidents of interest for each of H2O’s 48 visiting students, to harness their best and put their finest minds at magical work!
India’s Autism Awareness Crisis
Here is the fascinatingly depressing thing about Autism in India (and around the world). One in every 100 children under the age of 10 is somewhere on the Autism spectrum (Katsnelson, 2018, Spectrum). There are no distinct statistics on how many of them are boys or girls – therefore, there is no distinct method of treatment for girls or boys, as per the needs of their socio-cultural and physiological upbringing, let alone an understanding of it among children with an intersex identity. It doesn’t take much analysis to know that a large population of children with Autism are born to parents from poor economic backgrounds, who either have no knowledge of ASD or access to get help for it.
How H2O fits in the discourse
Helping Hands Organisation (H2O) is a not-for-profit based out of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Focusing on underprivileged children with autism and other learning and behavioural differences, H2O invests itself in their rehabilitation, therapy, skills development and independence, while also raising awareness among parents, members of rural governance and the society. The programme, ‘Daffodils’, is the primary area of focus with 78 registered beneficiaries of which 48 attend the centre for therapies every day. The rest are visited at their homes. All services provided to the beneficiaries – from special education to skills training and therapies, are provided completely free of cost, and on the support of external funding and donations.
Apart from its focus on disability, H2O takes interest in holistic development and intervention in society. In line with this intention, the organisation also works with underprivileged children to support them with their education and growth, provides palliative care for the elderly poor, as well as encourages youngsters to be the change in the world, via their social campaigns. Sister programmes H2O runs are ‘Prateeksha’ for holistic education among underprivileged children, ‘Sanjeevani’ for palliative care of the elderly poor (in association with the IMA), ‘CMCA’ for civic awareness and action among schools.
We at H2O believe that our volunteers are our biggest strengths. With over 12,000 youth volunteers across the state and 2,500 active volunteers just within Thiruvananthapuram, it is them who have helped us sustain our vision for our children with disability, as well as our other programmes and campaigns. It is their work and intent that keeps our faith and hope for a future which is accessible, equal, and just.
How can H2O be supported
As is with any grassroots NGO, H2O too suffers from lack of funding. One of our biggest aims is to be able to address the needs of all of our 78 beneficiaries (for which we currently do not have the infrastructure), and bring in more therapies and special educators to up the level of education and help we currently provide. We are often losing out on professional support due to our inability to afford them. And this is where we need help. We need support in spreading the word of the work we do, and the little successes of our beneficiaries we celebrate each day.
Jolly Johnson is the founder of the Helping Hands Organisation.