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Teenager plans to reach to out 1000 autistic people

Jul 24, 2019

A passionate student of Art and Psychology, Ota always worked with those suffering from autism since grade three.

New Delhi: Junko Ota is a class 12th student of British School in Delhi. Just when she turned 16, Junko 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.

With her latest conference ‘Open Voices- Analyzing the Developments in Autism Education and Management’ held recently at IIC, New Delhi, Junko Ota brought together NGOs and individuals who have worked with alternative and non-traditional approaches for treating and managing autism, including art therapy, to highlight the need for creating awareness about autism in India.

A passionate student of Art and Psychology, Ota always worked with those suffering from autism since grade three. “I have always been a passionate student of Art and Psychology, and Journals and Journeys, and now the Open Voices Conference 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 people with Autism in the next year”.

Vaishali Chakravarty, Founder of Joy of Drama said, “There are very few people who would talk about Autism Education and Autism Awareness, and Junko being a child in school has taken up a big initiative. In today’s times if children like Junko help raise awareness of this level then I think we are in a good place”.

Ota adds, “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”.

She feels, that it was her strong will which helped her get the support of NGOs like Action for Autism, Samadhan, Joy of Drama among others to take the initiative forward through their expertise. “So, yes I am very young. I am still in high school and I am 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”, says Ota.

Autism is a Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which can have a mild, moderate or severe effect on a child. It impairs the ability to communicate and interact with others, and it affects not only the child but also the family. According to studies, 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in India.

Ota wants to take this campaign forward and within the next one year reach out to as many as 40 organisations, special schools, parent support groups, and behavioral therapy centers to help people affected with autism. “I thought Delhi is the right place to start from as most of the organizations working in the sector are from here. Now, I would like to take this conference to other cities in the country” said Ota.

The biggest challenge, she says, in her mission is to convince big organisations as she is just a teenager and lacks ‘expertise’. But I would say it’s her intentions which bring her the kind of support she needs from family and friends.

At the age of 12 years, I organised a garage sale with three friends. We sold old books and usable toys and managed to collect little funds which we have to an NGO working for providing interventions, education, and therapies to autistic children,” She said.

Since then through her work, associations and social media she has been continuously spreading the word around autism and alternative therapy. “The volunteering exposure changed my life as a child; it inculcated values in me and taught me a lot about life. I never thought I will receive this kind of support at a nascent stage. But I feel it’s the intention that matter and people joined me,” she adds.

Merry Barua, Founder and Director of Action for Autism said, “She had come to us and volunteered with kids with severe autism. She was happy and very comfortable with them. Children were happy and they looked forward to her visits. For someone as young as her and thinking and wanting to put her interest in psychology and art and do this is amazing”.

Ota wants to be pillar strength for the autistic community and is setting an example for many young children who wants to bring the change in society.

Sumathi Morgan, Director of Samadhan, “Initially, I didn’t take it seriously. I was like it’s amazing how a young girl taking it up the issue but when she approached me told me about her work I thought that I should speak at the conference. She has a vision, its a great effort and given space to share your speak about your experiences and today we learned from other speakers”.

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