A personal journey into the ABA World

Essentially, after some years into marriage, Guna and I were blessed with a daughter called Krithika. When she was 2 and a half, we came to know she has a condition called autism. Autism is not very well understood in India though it is beginning to assume epidemic proportions with one in 88 child births recorded as autistic.

Children with autism would look perfectly normal but have severe difficulities in communication -a child with autism may be completely oblivious to other people and children around and prefer to engage in odd repeititive behaviors such as flapping hands, pouring sand or spinning wheels, may show emotional reactions and throw tantrums instead of asking for its need in appropriate way, may exhibit rigidities in following certain routines or activities etc. Some of them may be completely non-vocal as was my daughter. In slightly earlier times, these children would have been labelled as schizophrenic or mentally retarded and no attempt would have been made to help them learn anything. The causes of autism are still being investigated- not much is known except that genetics and yet to be uncovered environmental factors are involved. This is not something that can be ‘cured’ with medicenes.

While trying teach my daughter some essential skills I ran into this science called Applied Behavior Analysis ( pioneered by a person called B.F. Skinner around 1938) based on which very interesttng and new approaches to teaching essential skills to children with autism were developed. My daughter Krithika is now able to sit for 40 minutes at a time and learn from trained people. Recently , with training, vocalization emerged and she started using about 30-40 functional words like water, ipad, swing, dosa, etc. to communicate her needs. We are also teaching her to be independent in all her daily living activities such as brushing teeth , dressing up, appropriately shopping etc.This is a huge leap for a child who was non vocal for the first 12 years.

I started studying this subject- ABA ( 5 course sequence from a university in the US) , working hands on with children with autism to teach them language , play and leisure skills in a center in Bangalore (in a center called Behavior Momentum), mentored under a senior ABA professional for 2 years and about two days back became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst after passing an examination. While I work as a consultant with Behavior Momentum, I am also a president of the NGO called ABA India – an affiliate chapter of ABA International United States. Alongside my work as a Behavior Consultant I have been able to volunteer time to the NGO .

ABA India is a 3 year old NGO with a mission to spread awareness about autism, about ABA based teaching procedures, create a pool of trained professionals who can teach essential skills to children with autism and bring ABA as a subject of study to India. There is more info on our recent awareness campaigns, workshops conducted in various cities etc. in aba-india.org.

I am also trying to get rest of the society , people who are not directly affected by the problem to join the cause and engage by volunteering time, making a donation, helping with media contacts or PR etc.

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