The Revolutionary Merry Barua

Changemakersaathi माँ, a Mother’s day special story

Merry Barua is a pioneering revolutionary in the autism space in India. She is a remarkable woman, a mother who has dedicated her life to improving the lives of people with autism in India. Her journey began when she discovered that her son has autism, and she quickly realized that there were very few resources available to help him and others like him. Determined to make a difference, Merry became a pioneer for the autism community in India.

Merry was born in 1952 in the Indian city of Allahabad. She had always been an active student who stood up against injustice, she completed her formal education in Calcutta. And after marrying, she gave birth in 1980 to a son, Neeraj, who exhibited behaviour that was odd and unusual. This experience led her to become deeply interested in the field of autism and to devote her life to helping families with autistic children.

Merry Barua was a typical working mother determined to make a difference, and became a changemaker and pioneer for the autism community in India. At that time in early 80s, there was very little awareness about the condition in India, and very few resources available to help families like hers. As a mother, Merry was resolute to find a way to help her son and others like him.

Merry started by educating herself about autism and its impact on families. She discovered that there was a lack of understanding about autism in India, a lack of proper diagnosis and support, and a lack of awareness about the condition among the general public.

Soon, in 1991, Merry founded the Action for Autism organization in New Delhi, India. The organization’s mission was to improve the lives of people with autism and their families through advocacy, awareness, and education. Merry and her team started by providing training to parents, teachers, and health care professionals about autism, its symptoms, and how to support children with autism.

Merry began by providing parent-child training and support to parents and caregivers of autistic children. She also worked to raise awareness of autism in India, organizing conferences and seminars and speaking to the media about the condition. She worked tirelessly to educate the public about the condition and to break down the stigma that surrounded it. She organized events, seminars, distributed awareness pamphlets and did workshops to promote understanding and empathy for people with autism.

Merry even launched India’s first newsletter on autism, which became a valuable resource for families and professionals alike. Most importantly, right from the start, she successfully advocated for legal recognition of autism as a disability, distinct from intellectual impairment

Over the years, AFA has grown into a leading organization in the field of autism in India. The organization provides a range of services, including diagnostic assessments, early intervention, therapies, vocational training, employment placement, assisted living and advocacy and in particular supporting self-advocates.

Merry Barua’s work has had a profound impact on the lives of autistic people and their families in India. She has helped to increase awareness of autism and to improve the quality of life for autistic people in India.

One of the most significant achievements of Merry Barua and AFA has been the creation of India’s first autism-friendly school. In 2003, AFA founded the Centre for Autism, a school that provides education and support for autistic children. The school is designed to meet the specific needs of autistic children, with a focus on individualized education and sensory integration.

Through Merry’s efforts, the autism community in India began to grow. Parents of children with autism found a support network, and professionals began to take notice of the condition. The Indian government also started to recognize the need for better support for people with autism and their families.

Merry’s work did not go unnoticed. She was awarded the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000, which recognized her as a leading social entrepreneur in the field of autism. She was also appointed to the National Trust, a government body that supports people with disabilities and their families.

Merry Barua has received numerous awards, accolades and recognition for her work and in recognition of her contributions to the field of autism.

Merry Barua’s story is one of passion, dedication, and perseverance. She has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of autistic people and their families in India, and her efforts have had a lasting impact on the autism community in India and beyond. Her work serves as an inspiration to others who are seeking to make a difference in the lives of those around them.

Today, Merry’s organization, Action for Autism, continues to make a difference in the lives of people with autism in India. The organization provides diagnostic services, therapy, and education to families and professionals across the country. Thanks to Merry’s hard work and dedication, people with autism in India have a brighter future.

Merry Barua’s journey as a mother to an autistic son and the pioneer of the autism community in India is an inspiring example of what one person can achieve when they are committed to making a difference. Merry’s dedication, hard work, and passion for helping others have transformed the lives of countless families in India, and her legacy will continue to inspire and guide others for years to come.

SpecialSaathi is highly honoured and privileged to recognize Merry’s tireless efforts and feature her as a Changemakersaathi माँ for the Mother’s day special story on our website.

Let’s hear Merry’s story in her own words in an exclusive interview with Shilpi Mayank Awasthi Founder of

Part 1
Part 2

Author Shilpi Mayank Awasthi Founder SpecialSaathi

Artwork by CreativeSaathi associate Morpheus Nag

By Shilpi Mayank Awasthi


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