Please tell us about yourself

Since establishing South India’s first autism centre in 2009, Mansi Bagwe Das has learned that paying attention to stress and anxiety plays a key role in helping her students. The cofounder of Care4Autism has marked this as a starting point as she begins her next challenge – to support inclusion in the region’s mainstream schools.

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Tell us about your work

After completing in-class training with Geneva Centre for Autism Training Institute (T.I.), Bagwe Das will share the strategies she’s learned to help teachers in mainstream classrooms. “Every class (back home) has a minimum of 25-30 students and it’s very difficult for a child with autism to feel included.” Adriana Karka, T.I. Training Faculty, explains “In these busy environments, some students with ASD can quickly become overwhelmed by the noise, specific classroom rules and frequent changes to the routine. Watching for anxiety triggers in each individual student and learning calming strategies to apply when the situation occurs can make a big difference.”

Bagwe Das is excited to transfer her knowledge beyond the walls of her own centre. She recalls her first experience working with a child in 2003, when she took a summer job to support her studies in a different field. “Autism was hardly known by people in India. They just thought that the child had some issues but they didn’t know what it was.”

Through her own research, Bagwe Das learned about autism and was inspired to help others. “If I could see one child not being diagnosed, it made me feel that there may be half a million in the same situation.”  After completing her MEd with a specialization in autism from the University of Northampton, she connected with Dr. Anil Kundra to start a therapy and training centre.

How does your work help the community?

Bagwe Das finds in her work that, “lots of people want and try to help, but they don’t know what to do.” She uses “reverse integration” to work towards inclusion in mainstream schools. Students and teachers join the children at the Care4Autism centre to learn from each other as well as together. Building on this success and eager to apply her new skills, a refreshed Bagwe Das is ready for a new school year. She embraces the opportunity to help other teachers use the tools and techniques she’s learned to support students with autism. With a soft smile she reflects, “Times have changed in India; people are more accepting of children with autism.”