Autism Awareness Day: Italian doctor helps kids, families in Varanasi
Dr Moreno Toldo moved to Varanasi a decade ago to work towards rehabilitation and empowerment of autistic children and their families.india Updated: Apr 02, 2016 12:35 IST
After visiting India multiple times over 23 years, an Italian doctor finally moved to Varanasi to work towards the rehabilitation and education of children with autism.
Dr Moreno Toldo looks like one of the many tourists who mill about Varanasi. He first visited the holy city when he was 30 and was struck by the plight of poor villagers unaware of autism, a complex brain disorder that inhibits communication and social skills. Over the next two decades, he found himself coming back to India through his medical profession. Having never married, the doctor decided to shift to Varanasi in 2006, and work for the rehabilitation and empowerment of autistic children and their families.
People with autism struggle to develop social relationships, and often have extreme behavioural challenges. “The rural society is unaware of this. It considers people with such neurological differences as being rude or demonstrating bad behaviour, when in fact, he or she does not perceive these differences,” Dr Toldo said, speaking on the eve of World Autism Awareness Day (April 2).
There are not enough public services for autistic people and private services are too expensive, complicating matters for such families, the doctor said.
“In a bid to work for the rural people, I met the director of Kiran Society, Sister Sangeeta JK. A resident of Switzerland, she founded this society 25 years ago for rehabilitation, education and vocational training of differently-abled children of Varanasi and the surrounding districts. I saw it as a ray of hope for those who did not have proper medical support. In 2006, I joined the society,” said Dr Toldo who works at Madhopur on the outskirt of the city.
The society has a mobile team that organises camps in about 50 villages around Varanasi and its surrounding districts.
“We have also started a Family Mediated Integrated Program (FMIP) in collaboration with a leading institute of Bengaluru for the treatment of communication impairment in children below five years. We have included 15 families with their children affected by autism. They have gone through therapy demonstrations and a home training programme to understand the needs of their child and help them recover,” said Dr Toldo.