'ACE plays an active role in sensitizing the community towards Autism' - Dr. Archana Nayar Founder, Autism Centre for Excellence

This interview is part of the series for International Women's Day.

Autism Centre for Excellence (ACE) was founded in 2004 by Dr. Archana Nayar. She is also the co-founder of The Special Child Trust (TSCT), a not-for-profit organization working for children with special needs. Through ACE, Dr. Archana Nayar aims to provide an education for children of all capabilities in an ethical, professional and loving environment. She strongly believes that all children whether mainstream or with special needs, deserve the same quality of love, care, education, and opportunities to grow to their maximum potential. 

Dr. Archana Nayar
Founder, Autism Centre for Excellence
Co-Founder, The Special Child Trust

Dr. Archana Nayar in an interview with Suman Prasad spoke in length about the Autism centre for Excellence, how it was started, on negative stigma being attached to autism, her initiatives to increase awareness, social entrepreneurs and other interesting details.

Excerpts from the interview.

On the idea to start ACE - Autism Centre for Excellence

ACE was borne out of my experience as a parent of a child with autism. After spending almost a decade in this journey, it was clear that there is a lack of ethical and professional educational space in the field of autism. While there were some facilities that catered to the educational needs of children with autism, we soon realized the need for such a facility but on a larger scale. This is how the idea for ACE came about.

About ACE

ACE is a programme for children aged 2 to 17 years old that cannot be mainstreamed into regular schools. It is a school-based intervention with a one on one student to teacher ratio designed to improve communication and life skills, and to reduce challenging behaviors that are common in autism.

On negative stigma being associated with autism

The stigma associated with autism is the stigma attached to most mental disabilities. Since there is ignorance about mental health in our country, such individuals and their families are looked upon as strange, weird or incompatible with regular society. Instead of receiving the sensitivity and understanding they deserve, there is further isolation from the community.

Dr. Archana Nayar with students

On different initiatives taken to increase autism-awareness & removing the negative stigma associated with autism

ACE plays an active role in sensitizing the community towards Autism. We create several events for outreach though out the year. World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd is celebrated by creating awareness campaigns- such as interacting with the media, planning autism specific walks through the community, autism information booths for sharing information in the malls.

In 2016, ACE along with DLF Promenade lit the mall blue on April 2nd. Lighting up in blue is internationally symbolic of autism awareness. This event was the first of its kind in Delhi.

On keeping the team motivated at work

Team motivation is an important and challenging task for any organization but much more so when we work in the field of disability. To keep the team energized, it is extremely important to plan frequent fun events such as socials and sports. It is equally essential to allow individuals in the team to have a voice and the ability to express thoughts and opinions. Professional growth is very important and we do provide opportunities at ACE for that.

On skills to be a good leader

As a leader, it is important to have the skill to look at the larger philosophy of the organization and to motivate the team towards that common goal. It is also integral to understand the details and workings of the organization so the challenges and gaps can be worked upon while encouraging strengths. The leader should also have the ability to understand different points of views and harness them in desired directions.

On rising cases of sexual harassment at workplaces and if a woman on top can curb these

Of course, but I don’t see the need for there to be a relevance between a women on top and sexual harassment being curbed. Sexual harassment is a serious malady for any work place and superiors need to take intensive efforts at curbing it.

On whether it is important to have an International Women's Day

I think it is very important to have an International Women’s Day. Despite the strides that women have made over centuries and across the world, there is still such a prevalent discrimination against women. The International Women’s day is a powerful reminder of women’s achievements and what they are capable of.

Tips for women who want to be a social entrepreneur

I think the single most important tip I can give to a women who wants to be a social entrepreneur is to harness her passion, and use it to drive her in her endeavors. Besides that, I think she needs to stand strong, and be receptive to criticism and learning. It is the criticism-constructive or not, that forces you to go beyond what you thought you were capable of, and achieve the impossible.


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