Spectrum of Hope – Dr. A. K Kundra
Spectrum of Hope – Dr. A. K Kundra
Most people think Autism is a disorder. Autistic people are atypical. But they do not have a disease/ disorder. Autism is not a disability, but a different ability! So, next time don’t think of it as a disorder or a disease. In other words, Autistic people are a part of neuro-diversity in the human race.
However, Autism is considered a disability from a legal point of view. This is because Autistic people need access to extra support, care, and government aid. Since each person with Autism is unique, their need for support also varies. Autistic people have a high vulnerability in everyday life. Hence, when they are considered as disabled, it is to protect them from this vulnerability.
Q1. How did it all begin?
When Dr. A. K. Kundra was a teacher of English in the Andhra Pradesh district of Bolarum in 1984, he first became aware of autism. One student was “different,” according to the teachers present.
When the child’s behaviour did not alter, Dr. Kundra realised it might be due to a learning deficit. At first, he thought the child was acting out deliberately to avoid studying.
A few months later, he made a trip to London where he learned more about the condition and established an organisation inside the Bolarum district school for kids with autism. Dr. Kundra’s first project for the autism community was that one. He has since made significant contributions to their welfare, building an Autism Ashram (shelter house) in Hyderabad in 2012.
Q-2. What is Autism Ashram?
On the outskirts of Hyderabad, Autism Ashram and SimplyGive Foundation established the first private residential gated community for families with autism in the world. Dr. A K Kundra (who has completed his doctoral research on autism and ageing) observed that a significant portion of parents live in constant stress because they want to care for their special needs child until they are no longer alive but do not have any options for planning for their special needs child’s future needs. While working with families like these and providing residential care under Autism Ashram, Dr. Kundra made this observation.
Q-3. What is Autism Guardian Village?
Autism Guardian Village (AGV) is a pioneering residential complex in India created just for people with autism and their families. It officially opened its doors in 2020.
For families with a child or adult with autism, a ground-breaking idea called “Creating Guardians for Life-After Life” has begun taking development.
The region features 84 houses, hundreds of trees, a community hall, a dining area, a hospital, and a cafe, all of which are dispersed throughout 10 acres of property. 35 of the gated community’s cottages are occupied, and the remaining ones are completely reserved.
Some enchanting features
- Guardianship Concept: A Global First
- All 83 parents come together to take up the role of a child’s guardianship!
- They jointly look out for the welfare of children.
- The child whose parents have passed away immediately receives a Caregiver trained by the Caregiver Institute of India.
- The child is blessed with a caring guardian in charge of the child’s health, hygiene, and safety.
- A mini-India with a diverse culture, where families who moved from Kashmir to Kanyakumari now reside and look out for one another.
Q-4. How was the idea of establishing AGV born?
Dr. Kundra was inspired to build the village after hearing from a number of parents who said they did not want to give up their children or other family members but still want a safe place for them.
“Shelter homes abroad have spacious grounds, with one acre set out for five kids. I originally invested a sizable chunk of my own resources in land since I did not want to compromise on it. I obtained 5-year-old amla, mango, neem, and other trees to build up the greenery that helps to quiet the mind after obtaining the required approvals. Each cottage costs Rs 35,00,000, according to Kundra.
The management group led by Dr. Kundra, which is made up of professionals and specialists, is in charge of looking after and maintaining this hamlet. Every day, they participate in group activities in the community centre, including vocational training, music, reading, and other things.
Q-5. What are the activities held at AGV?
The walls of 2-BHK homes are thinner to allow for more space. According to Dr. Kundra, the kitchen features doors that may be kept locked because persons with autism prefer to eat more frequently.
If they don’t exercise, people with autism can quickly become obese, which leads to various lifestyle-related diseases. As a result, we have paid close attention to their emotional and physical needs. We have built swings on the porches because they enjoy them, says Dr. Kundra.
The entire space is vehicle-free for people to move around freely without the risk of accidents. Dr Kundra notes that people with autism are often fascinated by cars, so if one is kept outside the house, they tend to bang on it.
Every activity is made to help the youngster and the adult. For instance, they frequently hold drumming sessions to ease stress and anxiety. Similar to a neurological workout, Working visual, auditory, and motor cortexes, according to Dr. Kundra.
Q- 6. What are the facilities in the campus?
Inside the facility, there is a general store run by three young adults. According to Dr. Kundra, delivering necessities to cottages is another successful socialising strategy.
A basketball court, table tennis, mini golf course, and pool tables are also on the site.
There are individuals with autism in every age range, ranging from two and a half years old to 42 years old, which is advantageous for the parents. With the help of other parents, the youngest mother is now able to better nurture her child.
The planning of Autism Guardians’ Village, where these families will settle, was prompted by the recurrent theme of the need for life-long care along with the necessity for a location where parents could age while the children grew into adults.
To ensure that autistic children and adults are adequately prepared to lead independent lives in the community while being cared for by their parents, all specialised interventions will be provided in the neighbourhood. Parents will also have the assurance that their children will have a secure and predictable future after their own lifetime. Autism is just another state of mind.
Q-7. How do the occupants and families feel about this initiative?
Their main worries were the lack of information and resources on how to raise a child with autism. The parents worked hard to find therapists and teachers who might help their children with issues including emotional intelligence, learning disabilities, and social interaction.
“Our world fell apart, and we found ourselves scrambling to find experts all over Noida. I had to leave my job due to sensitivity issues, inadequate infrastructure, and callous medical care. There were highs and lows throughout the days. To raise our son in a secure setting, we took on the role of hands-on parents. Mona, the first mom to reserve a cottage, adds, “We worked hard to be able to afford everything.
A parent ” Mona, a consultant by trade, isn’t the anxious and wary parent she was when she first moved here. The surroundings have made it easier for them both to deal with losing Bhanu (Husband).
She has seen a decrease in Tanmay’s (Her son) sobbing and anxiety. He enjoys sitting on the porch, watching people go by, and even says hello to them, which Mona thinks is a big change.
With this mission of building a world for families with autism, Dr. A. K. Kundra has not only received blessings but also shown the world that anything is possible.
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