• Nica Tofighbakhsh

Together is Always Better

Updated: May 7

Last Thursday, our community danced its heart out in the Step-Up Dance-a-thon at PRAGNYA, this time virtually, in celebration of World Autism Month. What have you been doing this quarantine?

On Thursday, April 30th, PRAGNYA hosted its annual Step-Up Danceathon event virtually to celebrate this special month. While every day is Autism awareness day, neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals came together at this event, riled up for the night, and ready to dance to spread awareness and acceptance.

Originally founded by the fervent students of Milpitas High School Ally Club, the annual Step-Up event moved to be virtual as everyone put in their best efforts to not allow the COVID-19 pandemic and Shelter-in-place hinder the event or spirits. Streamed live on facebook.com/pragnyaforautism, the challenge was a blast. Siblings, parents, and other family members joined in to share the spotlight for 2 minutes and dance to a song of their choice. Enthusiastic to gather an audience and recruit dancers, each participant posted a 2-minute fundraiser video prior to the event in which they performed a short dance and discussed what being an autism ally means to them. Truly touching, participants covered the memories they shared with their neurodiverse peers, experiences at PRAGNYA, and even involved their friends in the short promotional video.

Regardless of skill, everyone’s dance was extraordinary as it was stirring to see the eagerness within all to step-up for PRAGNYA. As illuminated in the event, “This is not a contest so you’re all winners. You’ve already won the big thing because you’ve stepped up for this. We’re so so delighted.” The event is not so much about the competition but about everyone's support in stepping up for this compassionate cause.

While participants took turns dancing to the beat of their music, everyone watching danced along with the beat of their hearts. It was an animated night of connection, love, and support, one made extra special by a special surprise at the end; celebrating Adarsh’s 15th birthday. At his second birthday shared at PRAGNYA, he gave a heart-warming speech in which he expressed how immensely he appreciates all the great things that are happening to him, and thanked everyone for sticking up for him.

Awareness may be everywhere-but our society lacks acceptance. PRAGNYA takes to the mission of spreading the message that everyone needs to learn how to interact with neurodiverse individuals. Our first step is to accept the difference, feel empathy in lieu of sympathy, and show the world that difference adds to beauty, not takes away. As PRAGNYA founder and Executive Director Kavita says, “The idea is that we don’t miss a beat..nobody gets lost through the cracks. That’s what PRAGNYA is all about, being mindful, being aware, being empathetic. Love is the only way, and together is always better.”


Click the following video to watch Step-Up 2020.


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