News - Media
Nov 27, 2007
Judy's Blog - Tenacious teacher takes on autism
- Judy Maggio, KEYE 42 CBS news
Autism now impacts 1 in every 150 children and it's rising at a rate of at least ten percent a year. But there is a woman in Austin who is having amazing success treating autistic children and unlocking their silence.
I found her through a friend of mine who has an autistic son. I was researching a story about autism.
When I met Soma Mukhopadhyay, and watched her work, I decided the story should be about her.
I wasn't the first to profile her. The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) did a documentary on Soma and 60 Minutes did a segment on her, too.
Doctors in India told Soma her autistic son, Tito, would never learn, but she refused to believe them. Soma quit her career in chemistry to devote her time and talent to Tito.
She started educating him and found he could read, write and do math. Now at 19, he is a respected author and poet and is about to have his third book published.
Six years ago, Soma was lured to the U.S. by some California families who heard about her work. But for the past few years, Soma has run a clinic in Austin called HALO or Helping Autism though Learning and Outreach.
Austin mother Linda Lange heard about Soma's promising technique and convinced her to come here. Lange was told her daughter, Madison, would never read or write. Now, Madison goes to public school and works at grade level. Lange credits Soma and her work for Madison's progress.
Most of Soma's clients are non-verbal. Their voices are heard through an alphabet board and a pencil. They spell to communicate their words and point out numbers on a number board to show their math skills. Many have high hopes of careers in everything from writing to psychology to computer science.
Soma is not a licensed therapist or psychologist. She is a teacher with tenacity who shows her students she respects them and believes they have the capacity to learn.
Her methods are not mainstream, but they work miracles for some autistic kids.
Part of her success is Soma herself. She never gives up on these kids and she has tremendous patience and persistence.
Autism is a brain disorder with no clear-cut treatments. Science hasn't proven what causes it and the severity of it varies widely from person to person.
Soma's techniques are certainly not the answer for everyone with autism, but it's wonderful that she is helping parents see their children's true potential.