When Raji Manoj returned home on Monday afternoon after the first session of a fabric-painting workshop she is attending, her son Siddharth paid little heed to the colourful paraphernalia that she brought in. She laid out the tubes of paint, the scraps of practice cloth and paint brushes keeping one eye out for a spark of curiosity or interest from her autistic son. He was simply not in the mood. Later at night, she was caught unawares of the 18-year-old sidling alongside her with the art material, prodding her awake to teach him.

Ms. Raji seemed thrilled when she narrated the incident to The Hindu while she was attending the second day of the workshop being organised by the Kerala State Literacy Mission and the city Corporation.

She was part of a group of four mothers among the 40-odd participants of the workshop that will conclude on Wednesday at the Muttada Continuing Education Centre. While they are all linked by the same interest to learn fabric painting, this particular cluster has another objective. They want to learn a skill and pass it on to their children who are afflicted with a mental disorder.

Closer ties

It was only the second day of the workshop, but the rolls of unpainted cloths seem to have brought them all closer together in a matter of hours. For these women, from housewives to pensioners, the three-day programme has presented an opportunity to get out of the house and be preoccupied in some artistic activity.

They were all tracing similar floral designs on a circular patch of white cloth, but instructor Lalitha, a retired Secretariat employee, prompted them to experiment on their own.

The Mission Nodal Prerak at the centre, T.P. Sreedevi, spoke about how valuable these classes, be it tailoring, umbrella, soap and candle making, jewellery designing, are for these women and autistic children.

In fact, fledgling groups such as the Autism Club and the Kudumbasree’s Special Neighbourhood Groups – formed by parents of differently abled children – hope to be able to make such skill training a routine part of their activities, said Ms. Manoj, who is also qualified in special education.

What is still a struggle for such collectives, is finding an avenue to sell. “Support in terms of sales is still lacking and we have to make do with door-to-door distribution,” Ms. Sreedevi said.