Touch of empathy

Sparsham, Statewide autism awareness campaign, kicks off

July 15, 2017 07:53 am | Updated 07:53 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Singer K.S. Chithra and Ananya at the inaugural ceremony of Sparsham in the capital on Friday.

Singer K.S. Chithra and Ananya at the inaugural ceremony of Sparsham in the capital on Friday.

As the colourful balloons rose into the air, the expressions on the faces of the children reflected the joy they felt but also underlined the fact that what they needed was not sympathy but empathy.

Children with autism and their parents and teachers had gathered at the Nishagandhi auditorium at Kanakakkunnu here on Friday for the launch of Sparsham, a Statewide autism awareness campaign by the Centre for Autism India.

Singer K.S. Chithra is the brand ambassador of the initiative, which aims at ensuring dignity of children with autism, recognising their talents, and bringing them into the mainstream.

The programme kicked off with young Ananya rendering ‘Nandakishora hare madhava…’ and the veteran singer joining her. The singer also rendered the theme song of the campaign.

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy inaugurated the celebrations by lighting the lamp with a flame handed over by centre member Abhishek Sanjeev.

Aided status

In his address, Mr. Chandy said children in the State had access to free education till Plus Two. However, there was only one school for the mentally challenged in the government sector. The private institutions were run by voluntary organisations or charged a fee. After aided status was given to 33 such schools, it was decided to give aided status to schools with 50 such students. Then it was decided that in panchayats and municipalities, an institution with 25 such students would be given aided status.

However, this was yet to be implemented.

The government should take over all institutions where such children studied, he said.

Ms. Chithra, in her message, said that in countries abroad, autistic children were visible in public, hinting at their inclusion. It should be the same in India, with such children getting an opportunity to play and spend time with other children.

Mini Kurien, president of the Centre for Autism India, said the percentage of autism was increasing, but there was little awareness about it.

The government was doing a lot of things, but more needed to be done in areas such as research on autism, finding jobs for such children after their education, assessment and interventions. Mayor V.K. Prasanth spoke.

Cultural programmes by the children were held.

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