It was believed that ALL people with autism were ‘loners’ and would rather avoid any social interaction. However, as the understanding of autism has evolved, we now know that a lot of those on the spectrum do enjoy being in different social situations, seek the company of their peers, and would love to have friends. But, given their difficulties in understanding intricacies of social interactions, they may often need supportive platforms to interact with typically developing peers and make friends. AFA provides such supportive platforms to encourage positive interactions between individuals with autism and their typically developing peers.

True inclusion can be established in many ways, from being included in a mainstream school, to being a part of varied social activities, to interacting and being friends with typically developing peers, and so on. The inclusive activities offered at AFA endeavour to facilitate successful inclusion across these different spheres.

Inclusive Educational Facilitation

Successful inclusion in mainstream education is often a combination of multiple factors: the functional ability of the child, the ability to learn in a mainstream classroom, the skills required to negotiate the varied social factors involved in mainstream schooling, the understanding, training and sensitization that the school and the teachers have with regards teaching the child with autism, as well as the accommodations that the school makes to ensure positive participation. AFA provides a range of services that encompass a majority of these factors through...

*Aakaar Early Intervention Programme and the Bubbles Social Communication Group which focus on helping the child ‘learn to learn’ by working on various school readiness skills and prepare the child for a successful inclusion in the mainstream classroom.

*The Social Skills Group Training Programme and the Magic Beans Language Classes, which provide intensive training in social skills, communication, and language.

*Individualised Educational Intervention, available for children who are already placed in mainstream schools, but may need additional support, including coping with mainstream academics.

AFA encourages the active participation of parents/ families in most of these programmes to help them have a better understanding of the needs of their child in a mainstream setup, and learn strategies that would be useful to sustain inclusion in a mainstream school. If feasible, when a child has acquired the necessary school readiness skills, AFA networks with schools neighbourhood. Depending on the vacancies available, we try and encourage the school to include the child for a temporary period. Intensive support is provided to the child and the school during these periods to ensure that the child can practice the learnt skills in a ‘real’ environment before seeking admission in any mainstream school for the longer term.

AFA also works closely with mainstream schools on many levels to facilitate effective inclusion of children with autism.

*AFA conducts workshops and training programmes on a regular basis for mainstream schoolteachers at the National Centre for Autism.

*Resource people from AFA are also routinely invited by mainstream schools to conduct training workshops for teachers, suggest strategies and design programmes and accommodations to enable maximum participation from the students with autism and other developmental conditions.

*AFA also works together with the government to provide inputs for educational programmes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the NCERT. The inputs include training of teachers, writing manuals on autism and suggesting adaptions in curriculum, teaching aids and materials.

Best Buddies

Friendships are often a challenge for people with autism. Even the very verbal, high functioning individual with autism, or those with Asperger’s Syndrome, find it difficult to initiate and sustain friendships, despite the fact that most of them are very keen to have friends. Keeping in mind this desire of people with autism, we seek to provide them opportunities to experience friendship whilst learning all the social skills required to have a successful friendship.

In one such endeavor, along with Best Buddies International, AFA started the Best Buddies India Chapter in Gargi College in 2011. Through regular interactions over emails, phone calls or group/individual activities and events, adolescents and adults with autism get a chance to make friends with neuro-typical (non-disabled) volunteers. Volunteers from Zakir Husain Delhi College joined this programme in 2013. To know more click here.

Inclusive Co-curricular Activities

Proximity and exposure to the differently abled leads to awareness, understanding and eventually acceptance. Keeping this in mind as one of our goals, AFA runs a series of programmes for typically developing children and those with autism to build upon leisure time skills together and foster inclusion.

*Two of these initiatives include computer and pottery sessions where children from the local government schools attend classes in small groups along with children with autism.

The computer sessions focus on teaching basic computer skills, academic skills-like math, vocabulary, leisure time activities such as listening to music; watching a movie and surfing the Internet.

Pottery sessions include activities ideal for addressing tactile and motor issues, in addition to creativity. Clay work strengthens our hands functions that are also required in daily living activities.