Subhana is 13 years old and has autism spectrum disorder. Her mother Rukhsana became worried Subhana was not developing typically when her friend’s baby started crawling whilst Subhana could not sit upright without support. She took Subhana to a local hospital, where the doctor diagnosed her with congenital muscle weakness and developmental delay. In that moment, Rukhsana’s mind filled with all the stories Subhana’s father had shared about his own worst memories as a child: running in panic through those same streets where the family still live, lost among clouds of choking, toxic gas that had silently leaked from the Union Carbide factory.
Concerned that Subhana’s condition was related to the gas disaster, Rukshana began making enquiries and learned of the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre. The first time she brought Subhana to the clinic she was 3 years old and was just learning to walk, but remained entirely non-verbal. With the help of a specialised course of speech therapy, Subhana slowly began to communicate. First came gestures and single words, then two-word phrases, and eventually full sentences. As her communication skills improved Subhana quickly found new friends at Chingari: Zehra, Sara and Rishikesh. With the help of speech therapy and special education, Subhana’s communication, cognitive and social skills have continued to improve, and she now loves joining in with all the games and activities at the centre.
At home, Subhana is learning the skills she needs to become independent, including preparing tea, doing the laundry, folding clothes, and washing up. Her favourite activities are watching Bollywood films and playing dress-up, often based on what she’s seen on the screen. She also has three secret confidantes in the form of the family’s goats, whom she has named Shahrukh Khan (after the Bollywood actor), Dhanno and Bulbul (characters in Bollywood films).