In Talks with Kamini Lakhani
In Talks with Kamini Lakhani
We are in with another interview with the ever gorgeous and charming lady- Mrs. Kamini Lakhani. She is the founder of SAI Connections, an Autism treatment and therapy centre in Mumbai. Her son being her driving source of inspiration, Ms. Kamini has strived to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and other learning disabilities to develop the necessary skills needed to live an empowered life. In talks with Ms. Kamini, here are a few excerpts from her interview.
Q. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Kamini Lakhani. I’ve been proudly associated with the cause of autism for the past 25 years. I’m a Behavioral Specialist and an RDI Consultant. I’m also responsible for training professionals as RDI Consultants in India and the Middle East.
Q. How did the journey with SAI Connections begin?
Our cornerstones have been respect and dignity for those on the autism spectrum. The aim is to empower autistic individuals and their families. I knew what we went through as a family. I wanted to support other families. So we started SAI in Mumbai in 2004. That was our ABA Center. It was operational till 2012. In 2011 we opened our RDI Center, known as SAI Connections.
Q. Can you elaborate on the various activities at SAI?
We work with students and parents closely. Parents are an integral part of our program. We believe in empowering parents. After all, nobody knows the child better than parents. We set objectives for students, which parents and teachers work jointly on. These objectives are related to dynamic intelligence. These are implemented through authentic frameworks in our cookery, music, art, computer and academic sessions. To know more about dynamic intelligence, please refer to Dr Gutstein’s RDI book which can be ordered through Amazon. My ebook entitled, Independence for your autistic child is available at Amazon.
Q. What is your typical day at work?
A typical day at work consists of family consultations- either live or online, staff evaluations and feedback, conducting assessments and supervision of admin work. Our days are peppered with brainstorming sessions with different teams. I spend an hour with Mohit during work days. Guiding him is an integral part of my life, so I ensure I fit in a slot for that. Besides this I spend some time each day, writing. On the days we conduct Professional Training, the day looks very different. Each day is dynamic.
Q. Can you please enlighten us on RDI and its significance in intervention of individuals with ASD?
Yes, absolutely, that’s my favorite subject. When we think of autism, we think of excesses and deficits. We work on building speech and language. We work on reducing negative behaviors. I believe it’s much deeper than that. The Guided Participation Relationship is not in place for autistic individuals. The reciprocity in action, sharing perspectives, understanding non-verbal communication is affected. These are core deficits. Unless we work on this, true remediation will not happen. Once we work on the core deficits, a whole new world opens up. The child understanding skyrockets and it becomes easier to teach the child/adult.
Q. Can you share a few inspirational experiences while working with parents and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders?
Since we work on dynamic intelligence, we usually put students on the spot for thinking through a process. It’s pretty open ended since there is more than one correct answer. My students never fail to surprise me. They come up with unexpected solutions. Their thinking is truly out of the box. Parent empowerment gives me a high too. Being a parent myself, if I can guide a parent to experience fulfillment and pride in their child, it’s mission accomplished for me. We have a group called Moms on a Mission. I have worked with them for the past 5 years. They have all become empowered moms who know how to read and handle their children. Their children have made huge strides. We keep working. We take each day as it comes. Here are a few links to success stories of our kids.
Q. What are your personal inspirations and motivations to run this centre?
When Mohit, my son was little, I promised him I would speak up for him and others like him, till they spoke up for themselves. I’m just keeping up my end of the promise. Respectful and dignified treatment of autistic individuals is crucial.
Q. Can you please share with us some important lessons that you have learnt over time, in working with individuals with ASD?
I’ve learned many lessons from them.
- Presume competence. Whether vocal or non-vocal, people on the spectrum understand everything. Be watchful of what you say. Be respectful. Don’t ever use derogatory language.
- Accept and love unconditionally. I’ve experienced unconditional love from them. If I can give back even 5%- my life will be fulfilled. Without saying a word, they’ve taught these great spiritual truths.
- They’re here to show us there is no such thing as normal. Hence they force me to think out of the box and to step out of my comfort zone.
Q. Lastly, are there any tips or messages that you would like to share with other parents and caregivers of differently abled children and individuals?
Don’t’ give up- Ever.
It was wonderful catching up with Mrs. Lakhani, and getting a glimpse of her beautiful world. We at 1SpecialPlace wish her all the very best for her future endeavours.
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