These Engineers Are Creating Products To Join The Fight Against Autism

Did you suffer from depression and couldn’t summon the courage to talk about it? Did you have apprehensions that the world would oust you and not accept you when you told them that you thought differently? Depression and loneliness are completely understandable states of mind. According to a survey, 1 in 20 Indians face depression at one or the other point of their lives and we stand in support of those who face it.

We all have grown up watching “Devdas” (2002), “Koi Mil Gaya” (2003), “Taare Zameen Par” (2007), “3 Idiots” (2009), “My Name Is Khan” (2010) and “Barfi” (2012). These movies got us acquainted with taboos around mental health in India. Yet, we realise the seriousness of these different states of minds only when we meet and work with people who actually have some form of mental health issues. There is a wide variety of nuances associated with mental health we don’t know of and may never know of unless another legendary filmmaker or actor brings them to light. We may be hurting or even harming someone unintentionally.

One such mental disorder is autism. Yet, we know so little about something so severe. Imagine yourself being caged inside your own brain, where you listen to everything, understand little and are able to express a mere fraction of what you interpret. You look different, you act different, you struggle to get integrated into the society because its thoughts are just too fast for you. And the worst is that you can’t discuss it with anyone. Most children with autism are expelled by their peers in group activities. Everything around them is too much for their sensitive self, and realising something as trivial as a sense of their own body is something they cannot take for granted. Many people who are on the autism spectrum get misdiagnosed, or worse, never get diagnosed at all.  They spend their lives not being understood, criticised and ridiculed, every moment of their lives.

People with autism are different and so are their needs. They learn much slowly than others and have major difficulties in focusing attention, social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication. They face sensory issues and repetitive behaviours where they are either lesser or over-reactive to sensory stimulus, making them struggle with regular motor skills, transitions, organisation, memory and emotional control. It is extremely hard for them to look at the world the same way most of us do. Autism has been on a rise, with more than 10 million children believed to be suffering from it.

Regular therapy and education are required to integrate them into society and these therapies imperatively require special products to assist them. These products are either unavailable or are sold at very high costs and subpar quality in the market. When cliques outside autism community can’t understand autism, how can we expect them to understand these special needs?

Founded by a bunch of IIT and BITS engineering grads, Hope and Happiness is an NGO and an organisation in India that develops special personalised products for people with autism and sells them at affordable prices and zero profit. Not only this, they turn concepts into reality in an efficient manner, solving the prevalent problem of ideas not resulting into products. Hope and Happiness is leveraging the technological knowledge and expertise of its team to help people with autism get the products they daily need without paying exorbitantly for them. Started only six months back and with no marketing team, this startup has already served 130+ children and is growing by word of mouth.

People with mental health issues do not break covert, leading this vicious cycle of unawareness and unacceptance to continue. And this article is to show support and solitude to everyone who have had to overcome a mental illness at some point in their lives. Our society might go to any lengths to avoid the prevalent question. Is your child normal? We might believe that the child’s poor performance is because of their indiscipline and lack of attention and punish or spank the child, but refuse to accept that our child could be facing a developmental mental illness. And then the child turns aggressive, rash and guarded with their own insecurities, eventually settling into their own deep pit, worsening the situation and probably never coming out of it.

Hope and Happiness through its products addresses many of these sensory, communicative and other issues. Its products include a weighted blanket that uses deep pressure therapy to provide a child with peaceful sleep, a portable weighted textured cushion that reduces impatient movements, a shoulder snake toy that reduces fidgeting and increases attention span, a compression belt that helps to keep the children’s arms and legs straight, avoiding permanent deformation, hand weights that assist fine motor skills development and a ‘talking book’ that helps a non-verbal child to communicate along with several others. Yet, they have just begun.

A little girl with the startup’s flagship product, a weighted blanket.

These products are a result of years of extensive research and field work. Not only this, the team trains and employs persons with disability to manufacture these products, turning them into entrepreneurs for the multi-level advantage of the society. Following this model, Hope and Happiness aims to become a self-sustainable NGO.

Hope and Happiness is also open to any new suggestions or requests that could be given by a patient’s family, therapist or well-wisher. The best thing you can do to someone is to help them in a way that can never be repaid. So, if you know anyone diagnosed with autism, depression, anxiety or other sensory issues, put them in touch with ‘hope’. Because hope is real. Help is real.

Hope and Happiness can be contacted at hopeandhappinessco@gmail.com
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Image source: Alok Aditya/ Facebook, Nishtha Gupta/ Facebook

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