Life has been an adventure for Sangeetha Chakrapani, mother to quadruplets — Krishna, Jayashree, Lakshmi, and Jayanthi.
Everything changed for Sangeetha when her daughters, Lakshmi and Jayanthi, were diagnosed with autism at the age of two.
In an attempt to create an empowering environment for individuals like them, she started the Together Foundation in Mumbai in 2015.
The foundation prepares persons with developmental disabilities for independent living by giving them a shelter-employment workshop, where they earn for the work they do.
“It all started when I began having questions like what would my two daughters be doing five years from now? Or when they are in their thirties?” says Sangeetha.
When she shared these concerns with other parents of neurodivergent individuals, she realised she was not alone. And so the idea of the Together Foundation took shape.
It started with a bakery in 2015, selling a range of products like cookies, chocolates, tea cakes, and laddoos, as well as sugar-free and vegan products.
Later on, the foundation expanded to other activities. Today, the campus has units dedicated to paper bag manufacturing, handicrafts, labelling, data entry, etc.
Over 35 neurodivergent adults work on their campus, and Sangeetha shares that they are paid a stipend of Rs 1,500 a month.
While the foundation’s wheels were moving fast, she made an observation that set her on yet another mission. She noticed that Lakshmi and Jayanthi’s attention would drift off when she narrated stories to them.
Sangeetha decided to come up with an engaging way of storytelling for neurodivergent individuals. She began reaching out to people who were in the field of animation.
She realised that if she wanted to create an engaging activity for individuals with autism, an app was the best way to go. This is how AutiTales was born in 2022.
The app has specially crafted stories with activities on each slide that an individual can do. This ensures that they understand and engage with the story before moving on further.
“There are matching games, typing activities, keywords to help connect the dots of the story, jingles and also drawing sections,” explains Sangeetha.
“We kept building to see how to make it an enriching experience. The story gives you multiple levels of engagement,” she says, adding that in total, they have curated nine stories but released three so far.