Monday, July 14, 2014

Helping the cause of autism in Kerala

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photo: Kiran Bedi (left) with Simmi Santha 

Simmi Santha was taken aback by the visible stress on Reena Mathew's face at an interaction in Kochi. But the reasons were not far to seek. “Reena was desperate to get the right treatment for her eight-year-old autistic son, Vinu,” says Simmi, a behavioural therapist from Toronto, Canada. “Apart from that, her personal life is in a shambles.”

Reena had fallen in love with Roy Mathew and got married. But when their child was born, both got a shock when it was revealed that Vinu was autistic. After two years, Roy divorced Reena. Now he is married again and has a child.

Reena has been left alone to fend for her son,” says Simmi. “She is devastated and does not know what to do. In fact, she seems to be heading towards a deep depression.”

But help is at hand. Simmi is starting a clinic for autism at her mother's home town of Mallapally in Pathanamthitta district. “This is a humble beginning,” says Simmi. “Later, I hope to set up more clinics through the length and breadth of Kerala. The state needs an advanced health care for autistic children, as it is there in the West.”

The inauguration ceremony will take place on Monday at Kochi, in the presence of former IAS officer Kiran Bedi. The clinic is called the 'Reeta Peshawaria Centre for Autism'.”

Simmi, who grew up in Rourkela, did her bachelor’s in mental retardation at the National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped at Secunderabad, where one of her teachers was Dr Reeta Peshawaria-Menon. Unfortunately, Reeta passed away, of breast cancer on July 14, 2012. Not many people know that Reeta is Kiran Bedi's sister.

Kiran Bedi will also be releasing Simmi's ‘Manual for parents and caregivers’, which has been brought out with the help of the Rs 1 lakh Reeta Peshawaria Fellowship Award which Simmi won in 2014.

I want to create an awareness among parents in Kerala that their child is differently abled,” says Simmi. “He is not ready to meet you on your terms, but on his. An autistic child understands things in a different way and has different abilities. The best example is Sukesh Kuttan [of Idea Star Singer fame].”

(Some names have been changed) 

 (The New Indian Express, Kerala Edition)

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