HIGASHI Autism School in New Delhi is the third of its kind globally

From left, RSS General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale, Vice President of India, Jagdeep Dhankhar, and HAS Chairperson, Rashmi Das at the HAS inauguration on October 29, 2023, in New Delhi. PHOTO: Rashmi Das

New Delhi, India: Building upon the effective approaches utilized at schools focused on Autism specific education, in Boston and Tokyo, which embrace the Daily Life Therapy method developed by Dr. Kiyo Kitahara, the HIGASHI Autism School (HAS) in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, is dedicated to supporting autistic children in India.

HAS was inaugurated on October 29, 2023, by Vice President of India, Jagdeep Dhankhar, and General Secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Dattatreya Hosabale.

Dhankhar, who was the chief guest, emphasized, “I have no doubt that of the three [schools] it will be number one in a very short time,” noting he visualizes HAS will emerge “as a sanctuary of hope, a beacon of inclusivity, and a testament to the exploitation of boundless potential that resides within each and every child.”

While urging everyone to come forward and support the school, Dhankhar commended the work of HAS Chairperson, Rashmi Das and called her a “dedicated pillar” and “prime motivator.”

“Rashmi exemplifies this virtuosity. She is passionate about the institution, fired with missionary zeal, and prepared to shed every material position she had,” he added.

About her inspiration to start this school, Das told News India Times, “I was extremely dissatisfied with the state of autism education. It was totally divorced from academics, and learning trajectories were poor. Children and young adults who were moderate or severe on the autism spectrum were totally unserved and never progressed beyond infantile tasks.”

“A multi-department, campus-based day-boarding private specialist school,” HAS was established through a partnership between the HIGASHI Autism Trust, New Delhi, and the Musashino HIGASHI Gakuen School (MHS), Japan, founded by Dr. Kitahara. Das pointed out this unique pedagogy, developed five decades ago, which is tailored for the education of autistic children has now evolved in both strength and scope.

Das stressed, “In short, the majority of autistic children were placed in an uneducable slot, and vocational training never progressed beyond envelope making. There was no professionalization or identification of domains where autistic individuals could excel and thrive,” while recalling she undertook extensive travels in UK, US, and Japan and ultimately decided that Dr. Kitahara’s method was best suited to realize her vision.

“We are a day boarding school. In a short span of time, we are a seeing huge interest from all over the country and many families have relocated to Delhi from Bangalore, Jaipur, Bihar, and Pune to secure admission of their children in HAS. This is a tremendous vote of confidence in our work and progression plan,” added Das.

According to Das, parents are already witnessing a huge change in their children in multiple domains, including improvements in executive function and working memory; self orientation skills; speech and language, vocabulary enhancements; reading and writing skills; subject learning in environmental studies, numeracy skills, social communication and manners; robust sports, yoga and physical curriculum; fine arts; digital skills and computing; personality development and activities of daily living efficiency.

Rafael Simoes De Moura was an international student from Brazil at HAS. His parents Eligio and Samanta Moura, before returning to Brazil along with Rafael in December 2023, wrote, “Seeing our son coming home every day with a smile on his face and making many new things, improving his skills, and singing English songs was an amazing experience to us,” adding, “HIGASHI school is more than a school, is a family, a place where the unthinkable happens. We hope you continue your work with other children, give them what you gave to Rafael.”

Das went on to say HAS has employed “incredible faculty and caregiving staff” considering the HAS education system follows a quasi-medical orientation geared to support a vulnerable learning group. There is a big para-medic department with occupational therapy and speech language pathologists, who undertake both speech and language therapy. There is a fine mix of clinical practice and imaginative academic content practiced here, in addition to the academic component handled by the Department of Special Education.

“HAS has the intellectual temperament of a university, and many learning templates are practiced, tested, and measured,” said Das while declaring she is planning to establish an Autism Retreat and Research Facility in Rishikesh. The residential facility will encourage education, quality of life goals, yoga and art therapy for autistic kids and families in addition to focusing on teacher training initiatives.



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