#WIWMTU Srinivas' Story

Srinivas' story shows us that schooling does not stop when you leave high school. 

What I Wish My Teachers Understood About Autism is an Autism Acceptance Project. If you are autistic or a parent of a child with autism and would like to contribute, please contact me at theautismquilt@gmail.com for more info.

What I Wish My Teachers Understood is that learning never stops.

Pista muffins, mango blondies, cheese wraps, and wheat bread are just some of the mouth-watering treats being produced at this neighborhood initiative that gives adults with special needs an opportunity to harness their skills, socialize with each other and the community at large, and feel like they are productive members of society.

When we talk about people with special needs, there are many organizations that provide early intervention and cater to the needs of learning-disabled children. But what happens after these children are grown adults?

This is where Sai Bakery comes into the picture. It is not just a regular bakery but it’s a place where adults with learning disabilities can come, work, learn, and spend a respectable and productive day.

Sai Bakery employs adults with developmental disabilities (cerebal palsy, mental retardation, autism and multiple disabilities). Each special person’s skills are assessed and the jobs distributed accordingly. Training is provided in the areas of baking and packaging and marketing.

“As a child with special needs grows, his or her family too is growing old. The parents have less stamina to take care of the growing child/adult. There are very few organisations that are working with adults with special needs,” says Sumithra Prasad, founder of Sai Bakery.

The idea about starting a bakery came from Sumithra’s son Srinivasan who has Asperger’s syndrome. After he finished Class 12, he just went to Sumithra and said, “I want to bake. I want to start a bakery. I will get my friends and we’ll do it together.”

Sumithra welcomed her son’s idea and enthusiasm to do something. She helped him get some training to learn the basics of running a bakery. And, in September 2013, Sai Bakery opened its doors.

Sai Bakery, which works with the support of the DORAI (Development Opportunities Resources Access Insight) Foundation, not only engages adults in baking but also provides them access to various activities like music, yoga, terrace gardening, etc. The products from the bakery are also delivered to corporate events in bulk.

“We are not a regular bakery. We make products when we get orders and deliver them fresh. Our aim is not to earn profits but to empower and give a sense of respect and individuality to these adults who have been often ignored even by their own families,” says Sumithra.

Sumithra has personally witnessed the impact on some of the lives of these adults with special needs working at the bakery.

Earlier, Shameena would not even go to the toilet alone; she was always accompanied by her mother. Today, she travels all by herself from her house to the bakery everyday, an incredible and positive achievement. She has taken over the packing of pastries in their boxes.

Once a shy boy, Anand would barely speak to anyone. But today, he sings and dances with his friends from the bakery. Similarly, there is Srinivasan who has become good at mixing and blending the dough.

Though a monthly stipend is given to these adults for coming to the bakery, it is the emotional and psychological support they get that matters.

“Many times, even families don’t take these adults seriously. Someone once said about their disabled daughter, ‘What will happen even if we teach her? She is not going to work anyway.’ This attitude needs to be changed. Respect and individuality are very important,” says Sumithra.

Sumithra adds that the attitude of parents towards their own children with disabilities has been the biggest challenge she has had to overcome. Sometimes, the families are not even ready to pay for the transport of their children, even though all the other facilities at Sai Bakery are free.

But thanks to Sumithra’s determination, she has been able to create ripples of change in the lives of many such adults. She has also inspired four to five similar bakery initiatives in different parts of the country.

In the future, Sumithra wants to reach out to more people who are willing to start similar initiatives and enable more people with learning disabilities to become empowered. Even if there are three people with disabilities who need help, she says, Sai Bakery will help them set up the entire system.

To order tasty treats from the bakery or to know more about their work, contact Sumithra Prasad at –  doraifoundation@gmail.com and check out their Facebook page.

This post was originally posted at http://www.thebetterindia.com/22773/sai-bakery-chennai-adults-with-special-needs/ 

#WIWMTU Lewis' Story

What I Wish My Teachers Understood About Autism

Day #10: Lewis's Story

This is my son Lewis. He is 12 years old and was diagnosed with autism at the age of 10. This diagnosis came after a 7 year battle. He is verbal but has trouble in social aspects in life. He gets anxious and can not cope with change. Lewis has been in a mainstream school because my local council said he don't fit the criteria for a special school. The teachers don't have a clue on how to deal with him. He can't understand the work, struggles with his class members and gets frustrated, which result in meltdowns.

His wish is for all of his teachers to understand him and listen when he speaks.

He knows he's different and struggles in life but he says he hates school and wants to be at home.

If his teachers could understand him they would see the little boy that has so much to give. His teachers could also learn that he's the most amazing child. He wishes that they would not judge him and instead, accept him and his autism.

#WIWMTU Marilou's Story

Day #8: What I Wish My Teachers Understood About Autism

Marilou's Story

What I Wish My Teachers Understood is:

1. That I couldn't decode non-verbal social cues so unless they were direct...it was useless. It would've been better than lashing out at me for something that I wasn't even aware of... 

2.That some of my sense were more sensitive than average and that sometimes I need a *break* from it all, in my case I don't have ears but freaking sonars, my earring is as sensitive as a dog's.

3.I might seem rude/insensitive even when it starts from a good intention, not an ill will.

4.When you start me on a special interrest, good luck to stop me because you won't be able to do so.

5.That even when I make efforts, it doesn't seems to please everyone so, I kinda learned to be myself and to screw the rest.

#WIWMTU Hirokazu's Story

A little about me:


My name is Hirokazu  Shima.

My age is 47.

I self - diagnosed at 41. I guessed that I was likely to have a learning disability at six age.

What was school like for me?

I liked reading 📖 books in high school library.

What I wished teachers understood is:

Learning for me is hard. I need a lot of time. And l don't know the way to communicate with others. I have a social skills deficit.

If my teachers understood this it would mean that:

It is worth living with autism in my life.

#WIWMTU Rhiannon's Story

Day #6: Rhiannon's Story

I Wish My Teachers Understood that a Smile Does Not Mean I'm Happy.

I'm 6 years old, in year 1. I have ASD, ADHD, ODD and anxiety disorder. My teachers always see me as happy, they miss all the little signs, I chew things, my eyes look down, I fidget, I get uncomfortable when I'm sad. On hard days I wish my teachers could understand things are hard for me. I wish they could understand that lots of little things all together make it very hard.

Mommy comes to pick me up, I run into her arms and I burst out crying. Mommy asks the teachers what's wrong, they say I'm tired. Well actually today someone stole my fidget toy, at lunch it was very loud, in class kids get too close to me and want to play with my fidget toys. I try and read but I cannot sit for so long. I get distracted, I get sad when I try so hard and I still cannot do it. Once things start getting tough it's more and more things that get me anxious, my tummy starts to hurt, my head hurts. I just want to be by myself. I want the noise to go away.

I wish my teachers can see that I'm not happy. 

It's not that it's been a long day, it's not that I'm tired, it's the fact they missed all those signs that show I'm having a bad day and it just keeps getting worse. If mommy was here, she would know, she would make things better. But the teachers just tell mommy that I'm perfectly fine at home and I don't behave at school like I do at home. The truth is, I try all day long and once I'm with mommy I cry, I can't hold it in anymore. She tries to make it better.

I wish my teachers tried to make it better too.

Thank you for reading my story,


#WIWMTU Alex's Story

#WIWMTU Alex's Story

What I Wish My Teachers Understood About Autism Day #5: Alex's Story

I Wish My Teachers Understood that I was Capable of More.

To quote Dr. Temple Grandin, “there needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do”. In June of every year there are so many proud parents of young adults who, after many years, are finally completing their high school education and graduate. Several of those students have overcome many hardships to graduate and parents, educators and the students themselves get a chance to celebrate what they have accomplished.

When Alex was diagnosed with autism, the prognosis was “you should not expect too much”. We were told Alex would likely have “difficulties in school, probably not graduate and have several behavioural issues”. I suppose that is part of providing any prognosis (having to consider the worst case scenario) since no one knows what lies ahead or how much effort and time parents and others will put into doing everything they can to do the best for their child.

One of the happiest days of our lives was the day Alex graduated from high school with his diploma. “Probably not graduate?” So much for that prognosis! The joy I felt that day did not come however from the piece of paper Alex received, it came from something else.

Alex participated in the convocation with all of his fellow classmates in June of 2011. There must have been over 200 in the graduating class that year. Alex was part of an amazing high school with a program for Autism Spectrum Disorder (‘ASD”) kids, which provided an integrated and supportive setting (yes there are great programs in our school system and some incredible and dedicated teachers and staff). We were certainly blessed.

#WIWMTU Mickey's Story

#WIWMTU Mickey's Story

‘C’ is for…


something I felt much more keenly when I went to senior school; oh, how that visiting teacher to my fourth year junior school must have wished I’d wanted to go someplace else - to the Bowie school perhaps! But I didn’t and the place that I got sent to was a woeful prison full of beastly boys who did their best to make my life a misery because I was disabled. In response I made it my mission to get out of there the moment I realised that I didn’t like it; that I had no interest in the subjects on offer; and most pointedly of all that I wasn’t prepared to do ‘games’ after seeing one of the boys on ‘Grange Hill’ drown during a routine swimming trip. Initially I wound up walking out the gates a number of times, or else riding out of them on my yellow BMX, but at some point I must have been rumbled because I ended up having to come up with increasingly ingenious ways of escaping; tossing notes out the window to anyone who would pick them up – we were on a busy road – seemed my best bet. However, when I actually caught sight of one of my would-be rescuers: sinister, shabby, and beckoning me down a leafy alley with a solitary wave of his hand - the sort of man you might today see on ‘stranger danger’ adverts - well then I turned tail and decided that school was best after all. I think I must have run away twenty or thirty times in total. The house was locked when I got home and I didn’t have a key so I either sat in the garden until my mum got home from work or else I climbed in through the kitchen window; on a couple of rather risqué occasions I took the train to London after ‘doctoring’ my school uniform, as a result of which I was never stopped by the police even though I considered myself cute enough to be dished up as a paedo’s delight. This comely appearance led on one occasion to a rather dour young man approaching me one day and asking if I’d like to receive a blowjob; I had no idea what he meant – it sounded like he wanted me to take receipt of some drugs for him – so I went and asked one of the punky people who worked in Forbidden Planet on Denmark Street what he must have wanted. The girl behind the counter politely told me that he was a dirty old man and to steer well clear of him; ‘But he was young!’ I replied, in protest. ‘And he looked well washed!!’

#WIWMTU Dita's Story

#WIWMTU Dita's Story

I wish my teachers could see how anxious I am.

Dita's story, as told from her mother, Nicola.

Dita finds school incredibly challenging, however she does not have 'classic autism' and as a girl she is able to mask her difficulties rather well within the school setting. This proved extremely difficult in getting the support from school for her diagnosis.

The main areas in which Dita struggles with within the school setting are making and keeping friends, knowing how to act in social situations, and has high levels of anxiety when things happen outside of the routine. It's very difficult for her teachers to be able to notice her anxieties as she is not disruptive, she will go to great lengths to not appear 'different' to the rest of the class or draw attention to herself. 

I would love for the teachers to be able to notice her anxieties, by her finger movements, chewing on items and the 'glazed' look that I see appear in her eyes when I can tell she is anxious, it would be beneficial for them to know that although their actions may not create instant reactions that they still have an affect on her. She can come home from school and cry/scream/hit everybody and even hit herself in the head due to the frustrations that have built up throughout her day.

I would love for the teachers/classroom/dinner time assistants to have an awareness of autism and more than just classic autism, and know that one little comment can upset my precious little girl for a long period of time, we had a situation recently when it was world book day, and Dita went dressed as a gymnast, as she adores gymnastics. She even has a collection of books about it. A comment was made by a dinner assistant, that her clothing looked tight on her. This upset my daughter greatly. Dita already says nobody loves her, she's ugly, asks if you want her to be dead, so to have somebody make a comment like this is really deflating. Sometimes I just want to keep her at home with me however I'm aware there's less opportunity for her to develop social skills if she doesn't attend a school.

Generally I wish there was an understanding that although my girl may be smiling at you, it doesn't mean she's happy or comfortable. She has communication problems, and teamed up with her intelligence she is aware that if she doesn't smile, or lets people know that she's upset then they are going to ask questions, and that is a situation she cannot handle and will do anything not to put herself in it which is why she is smiling at you!

The teachers having some knowledge and understanding would benefit us all, it would help my daughter if somebody could see she was getting anxious and maybe remove her from that situation for a short period of time so she is able to self regulate without her having to ask the questions herself, which is something she is unable to do. It would help for me to be able to know what is upsetting her at school, so if I can find a solution, or attempt to talk to her about it, but at the moment apart form some obvious blips such as timetables changing then I haven't a clue in which areas she particularly struggles with and what is making her build up so much frustration and anxiety that she breaks down when she comes home and has levels of anxiety that are having such a detrimental impact on her mental health.