Chennai

A new beginning

Deepak attends to a young customer  

Diagnosed with moderate autism at the age of two, K. Deepak, now 21 years old, is taking the first step to financial independence. On March 10, an Aavin milk booth was opened in his name near Cycle Shop in Puzhal, where he lives. He manages the booth with the support of his family members.

Deepak has been able to make this stride due to the strong support system around him, including his younger sister Priyadarshini.

Deepak’s parents K. Sasikala and G. Kumar realised their son had Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was two. “He would not make eye contact; nor was he speaking,” says Sasikala, a homemaker whose life until then had revolved around her house. Her husband is an autorickshaw driver. During therapy sessions, Sasikala learnt that each child was unique and parents need to make adaptations in the lessons to the level at which the child can imbibe them.

“I was forced to learn new skills to teach my child at home,” says Sasikala.

At age eight, Deepak started undergoing intervention at a Sarva Siksha Abhigyan (SSA) centre at Thiru-Vi-Ka Nagar in Perambur. He was also enrolled in a Corporation School on the same campus. During the same time, a teacher encouraged Sasikala to take up a six-month foundation course in special education. These were turning points in the family’s journey. “By mainstreaming we could see some difference in Deepak. He started mingling with other children and he learnt how to behave in different social situations. My course helped me understand autism better and I was able to nurture him,” says Sasikala, who for the last 12 years has been working as a caretaker for the School Education Department.

After going to a regular school till class VIII, Deepak took up a vocational course with the Navajyothi Trust in Ambattur. That went on for four years but it was found that Deepak could not be on his own.

“Whatever you tell him, he will do but he cannot make a judgement of things on his own,” says Sasikala.

After applying for guardianship at 18, his parents were on the lookout for an avenue to engage him as well as make him financially independent.

They learnt that the District Differently-Abled Welfare Office at DMS sanctions a grant of ₹50,000 to help such individuals. “For the last one year, we been running behind different departments to help set up an Aavin booth, for which we had to identify a place and after due verification they would sanction the amount,” says Sasikala.

Last year marked a tough phase for the family. Kumar was without work due to the lockdown and Deepak was getting frustrated doing nothing constructive at home. With the opening of the Aavin outlet, Sasikala says it is going to instil some confidence in him. “If I can see a smile planted on his face, then we are happy,” she adds.

B. Santhalatha, former special educator with SSA, says Deepak’s journey is one that must be celebrated as he has come to this level due to the continual intervention and support around him. His mother is a source of inspiration as she is helping identify learning disabilities in other children. “Not many know about this grant given by the government and the family has opened a platform for him,” says Santhalatha


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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 9:52:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-new-beginning/article34176034.ece

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