It is estimated that about 1 percent of the world population has autism spectrum disorder. According to a WHO’s report (2009), there are 0.84% of children are suffering from autism spectrum disorders in Bangladesh. Though Bangladesh has a well-developed three tired health care delivery system, the service for autism is not widely available. Only at the upper class of the society has access to address autism properly but the rural and semi-urban areas are lacking proper facilities and services for Autism.
It is not possible to increase the service and skilled professionals overnight since autism is not widely known and addressed by society. Children with autism are therefore deprived of many social services and rights and thus parents are battling another fight against the mindset of society to fit their children in it.
Jhumona Mullik Jhumi is one such parent who has a 9-year-old daughter with autism. When her daughter was 3 years old, Jhumona consulted with many child specialists for the improvement of her child’s condition and got the suggestion to admit her to any special school (school for disadvantaged child’s) which might lead to the betterment of her daughter’s status. But sadly, the majority of the special school in this city are located in the newly developed part of Dhaka or in the area where mostly upper-class people live. For a special child, attending a special school far from home in this city of congestion and high traffic is not only tiresome but also in some cases impossible too.
Despite the fact mentioned, another thing that bothers Jhumona is the inattentiveness of the parents about a special child or a child with different abilities in her community in old Dhaka. Besides the lack of knowledge about taking care of a special child and sometimes ill-treatment also lead to risk for children.
“I was not also sure about the right thing to do for my own child and then I started looking for more information. Since my medium of the study was online based so I went through online research-based study for 5 years and took an academic course from ‘Proyas Institute of Special Education and Research Center’. After that I started working with the special child’s in my community”, said Jhumona.
She founded ‘Pakhi Foundation’ on 11 June 2017 in the old part of the Dhaka city. Her first and foremost intention is to serve special children in this area. The team of Pakhi foundation are not only serving the community but also providing information and guidance about special child care to the people living in distant and rural areas through online service. The on-site campaign of Pakhi foundation even runs to the places where internet facility is not in abundance.
On December 3, 2017, their school was inaugurated. Currently, they have in total of 15 students (male and female) and 30 children are taking outdoor therapy. Pakhi foundation provides sessions through music therapy, art therapy, occupational therapy, dance therapy, speech-language therapy. They also provide psychological counseling, parent counseling and training, teachers training, multimedia class, pre-schooling, daycare, and vocational training. Over 700 families nationwide are being provided with the different type of counseling by Pakhi foundation. For the betterment of their students, Pakhi foundation also arranges the cultural programs and celebrates national days to ensure these children’s participation in society.
In 2018, Pakhi foundation has received Joy Bangla Youth Award for their outstanding contribution to the society. Children are the most precious gift of the planet- working for these children and ensuring a better life also help their parents and society to change the perspective.