Nov 21st 2010: Fundraiser Held for New Jersey-Based Autism Foundation

More than a hundred people attended a Nov. 21 fundraiser for the Akhil Autism Foundation in Watchung, N.J. The event was organized by  Kalamanch, a cultural group that aims to find and encourage artistic talent.

“Swar Utsav” featured musical performances and raised about $2,000 for the foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit that was established by New Jersey couple Manisha and Mahesh V. Lad in 2008.

Their son, Akhil, was diagnosed with autism in 2002, spurring them to become proactive about helping parents cope with the symptoms in India, where there is little infrastructure to help them deal with it. Kalamanch, which is headed by Mahesh Lad, has so far raised about $10,000 to fund awareness about autism in India.

Among the chief guests at the Nov. 21 fundraiser held in Lakhani Auditorium was Dr. Sudhir Parikh, an allergist and publisher of Desi Talk, who was felicitated at the event for his philanthropy.

Parikh said that as an allergist he saw many children with autism because one of the theories is it may be from an allergy. “I am really impressed and want to congratulate Akhil Autism Foundation because they are doing a great service to our community,” he said. “Autism is a medical disorder that can be manageable and curable.” 

Parikh offered help through his publications to help spread autism awareness.

The program featured Hindustani semiclassical music ranging from Bollywood songs, to ghazals, thumris and nirguni bhajans, according to a press release. Rucha Jambhekar  and Pradnya Jadhav, accompanied by Prashant Gijare on harmonium and Prasad Joshi on tabla performed at the event. Shrikant Joshi was the compere. Since 2002, when their son was diagnosed, Manisha and Mahesh Lad have dedicated themselves to working for autism awareness.

Manisha Lad, who spoke to Desi Talk after the fundraiser, said Indian parents go through a long period of denial when informed that their child has autism. But it took them just two weeks to get mobilized to help their own child and others in their situation. Manisha Lad left her IT job, and started researching the subject, launching a nutrition website and expanding over time to start the foundation and spread the word in India about the latest research and treatments being developed in the U.S.

“We started with Akhil Health Foods in 2006. But we realized that parents in India needed hope also, so we focus on giving them the information on the latest developments and how to manage behaviors that come with autism,” she said. “Awareness is extremely low in India.”

The AAF was established in 2008, and in 2009, they sponsored a doctor from India to specialize in autism studies in the United States. On Dec. 11 and 12, Manisha Lad will attend an international conference on autism that their foundation has organized along with India’s Apollo Hospitals in Kolkata. “We are proposing an online training model for pediatricians in India to Apollo,” Manisha Lad told Desi Talk.

On the same days, a conference is scheduled in Bangalore on applied behavior analysis, and the foundation is funding travel for 20 parents.  “We believe deeply that every special child has chosen special parents to make a difference in life,” Lad said.

For more information about the foundation, call 732-516-0541; write to Akhil Autism Foundation, 75 Prestwick Way, Edison, NJ 08820; visit; or e-mail

Source:  News India Times

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