Forum For Autism [FFA] is a public trust formed in 2001, registered as a Public Trust and society as a parent body to empathize with each other, understand their concerns and anxiety, fight the common cause. The primary aim of FFA as spelt out in the Memorandum are is to improve facilities for diagnosis, education, training and rehabilitation of persons with AARDD, and for this purpose, to undertake various activities.
FFA is of the firm belief that the medical community hasn’t developed enough in the advent of autism in children and the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder remains by and large ‘trial and error’. This results in late detection and delayed intervention resulting in loss of precious time for rehabilitation. Further, new parents tend to be indifferent to the methods of diagnosis and education and rely overly on the conventional methods without much success. It is therefore extremely important that the parents are educated about this disorder and provided facilities and guidance to intervene in the life of the children quite early so that appreciable results are witnessed.
FFA runs a library with books on Autism and related disorders. Today, this library is equipped with over 500 books authored by therapists and professionals in the area of autism, related disorders, slow learning and mentally retardation. The trust also has an educational and technical toy library. New parent counseling and educating them has become a crucial activity, which the institution has been actively pursuing. Counselling young parents by sharing their woes, educating them understand the severity of the disorder and providing them guidance on the therapies available and the methods of rehabilitation.
FFA maintains a database of various therapists like the speech therapy, auditory retraining, sensory integration, special schools, vocational guidance, special dieticians to combat development disorders. Over years, this activity has gained great importance on account of the fact that the number of cases of autism detected is multiplying by day. FFA organizes seminars and programmes, invite specialists from India and abroad to share ideas and educate the parents. The aim is to help parents and therapists in understating newer methods of improving skills of the affected children. In the past 8 years FFA would have successfully completed nearly 100 workshops, which have been received very positively by the parents and therapists. Programmes are conducted in educating children on using alternative methods of communication, improving their socializing skills and facilitate integration with normal children.
Forum has recognized that in the years to come, we will need to start vocational training centers to imbibe few/selective vocational skills into the adolescent autistic children and help them rehabilitate. This is logically the next step in the child’s growth path. This is one area, which FFA has identified as next priority once the basic and the most proximate objective of awareness, education, training etc. is clearly absorbed by the parents and guardians of the autistic kids.
FFA is clearly a parent support group formed and run by the parents. It was founded by parents of affected individuals who decided to face the challenge of defeating the disorder in all possible ways and yet help younger parents to cope with and come in terms with the disorder quite early, since they all experienced the hard way that early intervention had very positive effect in rehabilitation. There are nine trustees of the Forum, three of whom are its office-bearers – President, Secretary and Treasurer. FFA has four very senior professionals drawn from various related walks of life to support them as Honorary Trustees. The Forum boasts of a membership of 350, comprising of parents and professionals although over the years around 2000 families have been members of the Forum at some point of time. Being a public trust, the membership to the Forum is open to all who are affected and desire to benefit from the efforts of the Forum. The Forum is also open to people who desire to voluntarily contribute their services for the running of its activities. It has a whole-time administrative support to run the library and accounts keeping too.
FFA is affiliated to the Action for Autism (a leading national level parent organization registered in New Delhi. FFA has also applied to be registered with the National Trust for Autism (established by the Govt. of India), under the National Trusts Act. With this affiliation, FFA expects to further enhance its footprint in the areas of awareness of Autism and help the cause of the affected persons.
The note of FFA is not complete without the mention of the advocacy efforts undertaken by the Trust. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India has acknowledged the proposals of FFA in the following areas and has promised to accord a decent reaction to our suggestions:
- Recognize Autism as a disability and include it under the Persons with Disability Act,
- Include and integrate all children with any special needs, specially autism, in schools (both special schools and mainstream schools),
- Extension of concession for students with autism while appearing for the Board examinations (presently allowed for learning disability and dyslexic students),
- Setting up vocational center, residential homes and reservation of jobs for individuals with autism – Bring about suitable policies and set up an inter-ministerial group.
Autism does not depict any specific traits to any class, creed, nationality, religion etc. The only trait is that it is more common in males than in females. Our membership again does not shown any discernible pattern to any location or class or linguistic barrier. As such the project is open to all persons who desire to take benefit out of it. The forming of this organization as a public trust with the benefits being made available seamlessly vindicates our existence and popularity. Chief strength of FFA is its unity and ability to use resources effectively as well as its specific thrust area with reference to early intervention and training parents and professionals. Our strength again has been to efficiently network and join hands with other organizations, which have objectives similar to ours. This again has been demonstrated in our affiliation to Action For Autism, New Delhi; launching of workshops jointly with other set-ups in Mumbai and the walk in support of Autism Awareness undertaken by all organizations under one umbrella. This networking will again prove significantly beneficial to fight the common cause enhancing the vision and enlarging the reach of FFA.
Constant endeavor towards awareness, early intervention, parental support and consistent training, the researchers have made substantial progress in enhancing the social skills in the case of autism. Some of the techniques widely practiced in Mumbai now with beneficial results are PECS, LOVAAS, TEACCH, Verbal Behaviour Analysis (VBA). Relationship Development Intervention (RDI™ Program) is the latest developmental model, which targets deficiencies such as emotional referencing, social coordination, declarative language, flexible thinking, executive information processing and emotional memory.
Our Core Group of Parents
|Jaya Sudhakar||Paramita Majumdar|
|Radha Iyer||Archana Patil|
|Fatima Shaikh||Vanishree V|
|Kunda Salvi||Anand Kumtha|
|Darshana Sawant||Vijayashree R|
|Chandra Shetty||Rajendra Kshirsagar|