World Autism Awareness Day: How these 5 startups are making a difference
World Autism Awareness Day is observed on April 2 to raise awareness about people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), including autism and Asperger syndrome. The autism spectrum is a range of conditions classified as neurodevelopmental disorders. Individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty in social communication and social interaction and have restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in 160 children globally has an autism spectrum disorder.
According to the Autism India website, the term autism was most likely introduced through the colonial British medical system, and it was described in the Indian scientific literature perhaps as early as 1944, by a Viennese paediatrician named A. Ronald, working in Darjeeling, albeit without using the term 'autism'.
Back then, there was very limited knowledge about autism among people at large. During the early 1980s, the level of awareness about autism grew gradually in the medical fraternity. From then on, the disorder was studied intensely compared to the previous decades.
Addressing this issue in young children, the government had also come up with certain policies and provisions through the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, and Multiple Disabilities.
Joining the government’s vision in this journey are a few startups that are striving to make a difference in the lives of persons with autism. YourStory lists five such startups -
Founders of Learn Autism
Co-founded in 2019 by Hasna Nada and Dr Stephen Shore, Learn Autism aims to extend support to parents and caregivers of persons with autism. It provides evidence-based information on a wide range of topics from pre-diagnosis to adulthood using bite-sized, on-demand video tutorials, downloadable workbooks, live webinars, community support groups, and more on its app, which is available for both Android and iOS users.
Headquartered in Virginia, US, Learn Autism entered India in 2021 to spread awareness about Autism, and spark conversations about Autism Inclusion in the country.
To commemorate this important occasion, the platform is launching a social media campaign #MoveToInclude. The premise of the campaign is that while there have been some conversations about autism in India by way of mass media, movies, etc., the awareness levels, and therefore inclusion, still remains low. Through its #MoveToInclude campaign, Learn Autism will encourage inclusion in several ways.
Speaking on the campaign, Hasna Nada and Dr. Stephen Shore, co-founders of Learn Autism, said,
“In the past few years, a lot has been done to raise awareness around autism. This year, we decided that it is now an opportune time to take a step further from just awareness about autism inclusion. At Learn Autism, we have created an all-encompassing support community for children and their families on the autism spectrum, as we deeply understand their needs. By sharing our insights with the world, we are hoping the transition is smooth and successful for every child.”
The core team of Nimaya Robotics
Founded in September 2018 by Dr Ramya S Moorthy, Subashree Krishnan, and SA Srinivasa Moorthy, Nimaya Robotics is using robotics-based therapy to help autistic children perform basic functions and become independent.
The startup has come up with solutions like the Joystick Skill Learning Unit, one of the first devices to be used in the training sequence. The playtime involves moving the robotic arm towards the target toys using a joystick, which helps in developing a sense of direction, palmar grasp, elbow movement, and hand-eye coordination.
The startup has also developed other products like Door Skill Training Unit, Shoe Skill Training Unit, Shirt Skill Training Unit, and Trainer Interface Unit, which helps young kids learn daily activities.
The motivation to help his brother, when he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, inspired Zafer Elcik to develop Otsimo, an Android application.
The idea originated in 2015, and after spending five months on R&D, Zafer launched Otsimo in 2016.
San Francisco-based Otsimo’s learning platform uses interactive games to help children with developmental disabilities learn core skills like reading and writing.
Available on both iOS and Android devices, Otsimo has helped parents, teachers, and families of children with mental and cognitive disorders to improve their attention span, reading, writing, and mental skills like emotion identification.
Gurugram-based CogniAble is using machine learning-based assistive technology to ensure early detection and affordable treatment of autism spectrum disorder.
It provides two solutions: early automated screening for autism and digital therapy management.
Founded in 2016 by Manu Kohli and his wife Swati Kohli, Dr Prathosh AP, and Dr Joshua Pritchard, the startup aims to bring affordability, accessibility, and high-quality management to homes across India.
Armed with the determination to empower mothers with home-based guided therapy programmes, inclusive education programmes and services, and support for professionals, Nitin Bindlish launched Mom’s Belief in 2015.
The startup aims to change the lives of persons with autism with the help of a team of professionals from different fields like psychiatry, child psychology, and neuro paediatrics.
It believes in empowering parents, teachers, and caregivers by mentoring and providing them with the right kind of training and resources to improve the mental wellbeing of those who are affected by this disorder. The app has home-based programmes and an extensive list of therapy centres to provide their services.
This Delhi-based company serves parents in India, Singapore, Dubai, London, Scotland, and the US.