Coming to Pragnya every weekend has meant a lot to me ever since I joined in May 2018, but nothing has compared to the feeling that I felt leaving that chilly coffee shop today. As a Pragnya Ally working with kids on the spectrum, I realized that I had just been a part of the first step to revolutionize the lives of these amazing differently-abled kids for now and for the future of our country. If America is known as “the inclusive one” then these kids should be wholeheartedly welcomed into our country, but currently, they are not. As Pragnya Allies and morally righteous human beings, we must stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves and allow neurodiversity to thrive within our community. Since the chances of a child being born with Autism has increased and continues to, I am grateful that someone who works at a national level has chosen to join us in our efforts to end the injustice to these individuals. Among many others, the fact that it is perfectly legal for one on the spectrum in a job to receive pay much less than a neurotypical in the same position is one specific injustice that prevents neurodiverse kids from thriving in our community. By enforcing the minimum wage for the neurodiverse community to be the same as the minimum wage for everyone else, we can better integrate this minority population into our community. After all, unlike any other minorities, any child can be born with Autism and it is our duty for our community to be suited for them. Thank you Representative Ro Khanna for seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for our Pragnya kids and people of all neurological abilities.
- Shravan Parigi
This morning I, along with my other allies Pranav, Aditya, Megana, Shravan, and Michelle, met with Congressman Ro Khanna to speak with him about Pragnya. We spoke to him about what it means to be an ally for us, and how much we’ve grown to be more compassionate by being allies. Specifically, we spoke about the importance of understanding what autism is, and how awareness of it can help the neurotypical interact with the neurodiverse in a more understanding way. Our personal experiences at Pragnya have shaped us into the human beings we are today, and by giving the neurodiverse community of Pragnya friendship and compassion, they have given us much more than we could have imagined. One point which my allies brought up is how autism is perceived by others in the neurotypical community. They paint it in a negative light, and part of that may come from ignorance. Mr. Khanna recognized the issue and was very sincere, and was happy to be an Ally. This was a great experience, as us allies have all looked up to him and see him as a great role model. Personally, I wrote to him about the issue of net neutrality about a year prior, and he responded to me, and let me know that he would do whatever he could to stop Ajit Pai and the FCC. This is an example of why Ro Khanna is an important ally for us, as he is a great representative of the people. Not just for Pragnya, but for the Indian community and the people of California. At the meeting, I felt honored to be speaking to him. I let him know that we should integrate the neurodiverse community into neurotypical programs. At Pragnya, the ally system is a way for neurotypical and neurodiverse children to help each other, which is something we need in our education system. Overall, this meeting is an important step for Pragnya, and we are ready for what will come next.
- Shreyansh Panda
One of the main goals at Pragnya is to be able to help kids who are on the spectrum, whether it be through small things such as just talking to them or even looking at the big picture and getting them more interactive in the community on a large scale. Often times, kids on the spectrum are left outside of the community and secluded. Yet people are ignorant of the fact that the neurodiverse population is no different from us, and just as we need social interaction in our life, so do they. Pragnya works to provide this social interaction and ingratiate them into our community as one of our own. However, currently, Pragnya’s impact on the neurodiverse population is limited to the kids who currently attend their sessions. In order to expand our impact and our outreach, governmental action must be taken. Things such as the wage gap between the neurotypical and neurodiverse populations are wrong and need to be fixed, but the only way to fix this issue is through a bill of some kind being passed that resolves this conflict. In order to get more funding for schools to include programs for kids on the spectrum, government action must once again be taken. In order to create a big impact on society, there needs to be political involvement. The meeting with Ro Khanna is just the first step for this political involvement. It can be used as as stepping stone to further autism acculturation. It can be used to further awareness in the society about how we can integrate the neurodiverse population into our society as one of our own. And with this additional awareness and acculturation comes the opportunity for further expansion and even more political action, and hopefully slowly but surely society will eventually have a community with a neurodiverse population that is mixed in with the neurotypical population rather than the seclusion that we see today.
- Aditya Hariharan
In my meeting with congressman Ro Khanna I'm hopeful that issues brought up will get to be addressed. I'm positive that Ro Khanna will be interested in working with us further and find a way to help those with autism. Some things I wished were addressed in the meeting was schools and teachers with how they are usually trained on how best to help those with autism, as well as how to get inclusion in schools. The issues about autistic adults were lightly touched upon, so although it's good awareness the problems run deeper and maybe need to be revisited next time.
- Michelle Pham
Before meeting Representative Ro Khanna, I was extremely nervous. He graduated from both Yale and U Chicago, two extremely competitive universities, and became one of very few elected officials in the Indian community. Ever since I joined Speech and Debate in High School, I have wanted to be a Congressional representative, so this meeting was a huge deal for me. For the last couple of months, I have been actively volunteering for PRAGNYA, and have worked towards spreading Autism acculturation in hopes of educating people that Autism is not a disease, rather a gift. In the meeting with Ro Khanna, I combined my passion for policy implementation with my strives in acculturation to suggest that certain legislation must be placed to help those on the Autism spectrum. I also showed Mr. Khanna, that having a representative being an ally would definitely be able to spread awareness to what PRAGNYA does. When the Congressman suggested that we, as allies, would be able to work with his team on possibly creating a legislature that helps individuals on the spectrum, I was exhilarated. This meeting further developed my ambitions for two huge passions of mine and has instilled a sense of optimism in me that will go a long way.
- Pranav Uppiliappan
Meeting with Congressman Ro Khanna was a truly enlightening experience in many ways. For one, it was refreshing to see that a man like him, someone who has political influence, was happy, even honored, to be a Pragnya Ally. This meeting reinforced the idea that Pragnya has a positive influence on the community and the lives of families, neurotypical and neurodiverse alike. It also gave me some hope for the future. I have heard of, read, and seen many cases of individuals on the spectrum being misunderstood or abused because of who they are. People are uneducated about Autism Spectrum Disorder and humans intrinsically fear what they don’t know. Instead of being treated like another member of society and embraced for their different abilities, these individuals are isolated from society by fear and sk
epticism. Meeting with the congressman, however, shed some light on the future. I have more confidence that individuals on the spectrum will get the support and voice they need through the government. Being considered in decisions made for the entire community will really help the neurodiverse community thrive. Also, the world could grow more educated about individuals on the spectrum and learn how to interact and enjoy life alongside them.
I think that I can speak for all my fellow allies who were there at the meeting when I say that simply being there and hearing the congressman appreciate what we had to say was a great experience. It felt like we were witnessing the start of something fantastic, something that will definitely make the world a better place.
- Megana Arunarthi