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Viewing the world through the eyes of our children

Joanne Rodrigues, recently won an online Live cooking competition. She stood first in a competition that kept her productively engaged whilst preparing for the competition. While her victory brought a moment of jubilation, the journey leading to it was a result of the involvement of the whole family making every moment an opportunity of struggle, strife, joy and amazement.

Crowned as a ‘Teen Chef’ Joanne won the competition organised by Orane Kids Noida, for the second consecutive year, acing it both the times. The cooking competition invites videos of participants from all over India for initial assessments. From the quarter finals, the competitors perform live on a virtual platform. Joanne was in the 11-17 years Teen category, which had 14 short listed candidates across India competing in the final round.  Joanne achieved victory by demonstrating the right measure of confidence, presentation, independence and healthy cuisine – in a span of 15 minutes, a time allotted by the organisers in the final round.

Bryne and Janice Rodrigues are parents of Joanne (14 yrs) and Brydan (12 yrs), both on the Autism Spectrum.  They joined SO Bharat in 2020, when the world was engulfed by the pandemic.  Joanne and Brydan were actively engaged in several unified activities and interactions held virtually.  Their first in-person participation came through the National Health fest where while Joanne and Brydan got screened, Bryne and Janice volunteered to assist the Thane / Mumbai (Maharashtra) team for the event.

Being also the lifeline of the monthly Family Cafes, the Rodrigues family, as they sign themselves, churn out one ice-breaker after the other that has been instrumental in bringing the group together through joy & laughter.

However, their experiences have not always been ‘joyful’. They went through the shock of a diagnosis not once but twice. They fought through stray and hurtful comments from people who hastily categorised their children as a ‘liability’ and showered them with pity- “why did God do this with you!”. Drawing strength from their children, the two professionals who were at the prime of their careers, relocated themselves to India with development of Joanne and Brydan being the prime focus. They came to Mumbai and continue to work remotely. Janice continues to work remotely whereas Bryne attends to his projects majorly during the nights. This enables both the parents to dedicate the best productive time to the kids.

Until a year back their children went to a Special School; Janice and Bryne were forced to withdraw the children from the Special School as they were unable to keep pace with Joanne’s development due to their rigid curriculum and restricted IEPs (Individual Educational Plan).  They assumed the responsibility of educating them at home with life skills. “Instead of struggling to correct them, we changed our perspective and attempted to view the world through the eyes of our children.  Excelling in academics have never been the Prime Focus considering that every Child is different.  More important for them is to be functionally independent.  A relatively independent and regulated child is always an asset to others (Even After us). That is how Janice and I plan the activities for them”. Says Bryne.

After having participated in SO Bharat fitness competitions to unified dance while also leading activities like Fit 5, Joanne also enrolled for the Communications workshop for 9 weeks. “The learnings have made a tremendous impact on them. The Communication sessions were a learning for me too. Today, we are grateful for being in the place that we are.  People who called my children a liability now call them great stars and wish their own neurotypical children to also achieve similarly under our guidance” – says Janice

As Bryne and Janice count their blessings, Joanne and Brydan look forward to participating in Swimming & Skating and have already connected with Ms Sneha Jadhav, the SO Bharat Coach

“We do not blame society and their thought process – as we strongly believe that till we do not advocate and expose our kids, they wouldn’t be able to understand our Challenges and hence won’t be able to react in an appropriate way.  Its only when this understanding is developed in society, there would be total acceptance which leads to inclusion in the real sense” – Bryne & Janice Rodrigues


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Special Olympics World Games


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