Ambar Bhattacharya, abptakmaa, Kolkata, 10th Jan 2020 : India Autism Center (IAC), an initiative by Ratnabali Group which is setting up a first of its kind development center in the world for individuals with autism, over a 52-acre land near Kolkata hosted ‘Sammilit’, the International Conference on Autism 2020 (www.autismconference.in) on and from January 10 to 12, 2020 at Amity University, Kolkata, which addressed the problem at grassroots levels by initiating an inclusive space where every participant, listener, visitor, and volunteer is an equal who will enhance the society with their unique personality and characteristics. The Conference witnessedglobally recognised advocators from the autism community discussing on latest development and research on Autism focusing on many leading and upcoming research and clinical practices in the field of Autism. The discussions provided comprehensive, evidence-based information to assist educators, other professionals, and families in developing effective educational programming for all individuals under the spectrum.
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects about ten million Indians. It refers to a range of conditions characterized by some degree of impaired social behaviour, communication and language. The term “Spectrum” reflects that symptoms can occur in any combination and with varying degrees of severity, implying that it manifests itself differently in every individual.
Some of the global experts on Autism who were seen deliberating were Ms. Liliana Mayo, Founder and General Director of Centro Ann Sullivan del Perú, an organization that serves people with developmental disabilities and their families,Mr. Ronald Leaf, a licensed psychologist who began his career working with Ivar Lovaas in 1973, Dr. Abir Mukherjee, eminent psychiatrist and associated Amri Hospitaland Dr. Jai Ranjan Ram, MD in Psychiatry from NIMHANS, Bangaloreand also MRCPsych from UK and CCST in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mr. Suresh Somani, Managing Trustee & Chairman, India Autism Center.
Shaneel Mukherjee began working in Special Education in Scotland, UK, in 2001 and focuses mainly on individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Her work includes parent and teacher training in social communication, adaptive skills and behavior management.
Dr. Jai Ranjan Ram is an MD in Psychiatry from NIMHANS, Bangalore and has MRCPsych from UK and CCST in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He had worked in the United Kingdom for 11 years before returning to Kolkata and is now a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist attached to Apollo Gleneagles Hospital in Kolkata. He co-founded the Mental Health Foundation, which is a leading service and training provider in Mental Health. in Kolkata. Dr. Ram has several international publications, including Autism. He works in collaboration with several parent organizations in Kolkata which empower and train persons on the spectrum.
Prof. Bhismadev Chakravarti is a Professor of Neuroscience and Mental Health, and Research Director of the Centre for Autism at the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading. He read Chemistry at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, India, and Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge. He conducted his doctoral and postdoctoral research at the Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, where he holds an honorary senior researcher position.
Prof. Sumantra Chatterji is a Professor with the National Centre for Biological Studies, Bangalore, India. His expertise lies in the research areas of neural mechanisms of stress, neurodegenerative and autism spectrum disorders, synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and amygdala. He is having many publications in various international journals and awards to his credit. Dr. Megha Sharda is a cognitive neuroscientist with expertise in the brain mechanisms underlying language and music processing and their application for developing music-based interventions for children with autism. She completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Montreal. Publicity : Perfect Relations.
Speaking at the Conference, Mr. Suresh Somani, Managing Trustee & Chairman, India Autism Center said, “All parents and every educator should encourage holistic growth and development. Educational
systems often focus on strengthening in-demand-skills to increase employability. Interdisciplinary growth is essential but unfortunately undermined by academic blinkers forced on children’s eyes. At Sammilit, our attention will be drawn towards the importance of holistic development so that each child is emotionally empowered, passionately driven, physically confident and spiritually aligned.”
India Autism Center believes that by ensuring meaningful employment opportunities for an individual on the autism spectrum, he or she can lead a life of general well-being and self-sustainability. IAC will provide the right kind of support to the individuals, so that most of them are able to strive for excellence in the workplace, no matter what the nature of employment may be. IAC’s program is designed to identify the strengths of these individuals and to empower them with the necessary skills required to be successful and productive members in both their homes and community.
The main event constituted a conference where highly knowledgeable and skilled individuals from across the world had assembled to share their wisdom and study regarding developing a conducive, integrated and inclusive lifestyle with people on the spectrum. ‘Sammilit’ witnessed an interactive panel discussion to break barriers that separate us from people on the spectrum by stating truths about mental health conditions and debunking deep-rooted myths. To merge both communities, Sammilit also hosted an all-inclusive exhibition showcasing expressions of art by neurotypical people who work in the field of Autism along with people on the spectrum. This uncovered a whole new world of artistic abilities and intense creative emotions when the young and old had projected their minds through colors and strokes on paper, narratives in verse and poem, instruments strung with melodies, and memories captured in photographic frames. For those interested in personal training and deep learning sessions on Autism, IAC had also conducted certification workshops curated for parents, students, special educators, therapists, and doctors.
The research committee of India Autism Center consists of professionals like Bhismadev Chakravarti, Prof. Sumantra Chatterji, and Dr. Megha Sharda. All the committees are moving forward and working symbiotically to bring about an all-round development to the project. IAC also has onboard with it the architect team as well as a landscapist’s team who help in portraying a more meaningful and sustainable approach to the whole design. A core team has been formulated and investigate the nitty-gritty of the entire project and join the dots for the same.