Teenage girl on mission to reach out 1000 children with autism

Teenage girl on mission to reach out 1000 children with autism

New Delhi: Junko Ota, a 17-year-old high school student in Delhi is on a noble mission to reach out and serve at least 1000 children with Autism in an year. Last year, she started a social initiative called 'Journals and Journeys,' to brings together voices on autism treatment, care, and support, to discuss alternative treatment options, sustainable care strategies, and create extensive institutional support systems. "When I was in grade three, I volunteered with NGOs working with persons with disabilities. During summer breaks, I spent time with them. I think this is what drove me towards the issue and study the need for alternative therapies than just traditional therapy, which is also scientifically proven", Ms Ota told UNI. The Journals and Journeys aims to incorporate art therapy – with an emphasis on visual journaling – to foster a culture of self–expression for autistic individuals who are uniquely marginalized in our society and often unable to find spaces to voice themselves.

The project works on the belief that a nuanced understanding of ASD (autism spectrum disorders) and a compassionate approach towards those diagnosed with this condition, would facilitate change in the conventional mindset that regards them as 'dependent', allowing them space to reflect on their own art and engage with the public on their own terms, which would make for an empowering experience. 'I have always been a passionate student of Art and Psychology, and Journals and Journeys, is my way of not only exploring these disciplines, but contributing to the community at large. Through our efforts, we aim to increase awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder and the various, innovative and advanced forms of treatment and research being done for individuals on the spectrum. I also plan to reach out and serve 1000 children with Autism in next one year.' Ms Ota said. A student from British High school, Ota, hailing from a Japanese family, settled in the national capital over two decades. Her mother Akie Ota, a homemaker and her father Seiji Ota, a partner of M&A section in KPMG are happy with their daughter's initiative.

The teenage girl also organised a conference recently named 'Open Voices' analysing the developments in Autism Education and Management' in partnership with the Action for Autism, Joy of Drama and Samadhan. The conference was aimed at bringing together voices on autism treatment, care and support, to discuss alternative treatment options, sustainable care strategies, and create extensive institutional support systems. In particular, the conference brought in individuals who have worked with alternative and non-traditional approaches for treating and managing autism, including art therapy, which Journal and Journeys focuses on. The highlight of the event was the open forum where experts, parents and the self-advocates themselves talked about their difficult journeys, their happy moments, challenges and motivating factors. When asked about about her future goals Ms Ota said, " I am still in high school and not a 'professional'. I do aim to be a special educator in Psychology, especially for differently-abled children and the autistic community. I want people to believe in me and take my work seriously, that's why I partnered with professionals, NGOs and movements doing good work in the field of autism to provide their expertise." According to the studies, around 3 million people in India are suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and the count is rapidly increasing, with one in every 68 children being the victim now.

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