changemakersaathi Story


Autism Advocate and Special Educator

My journey with Autism began in 2014 when my son, Kabir, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified), at 2 and a half years. He had shown signs of regression in speech and social skills. All the words he had, slowly disappeared, and he was reduced to a state of babbling.

I have a background in Clinical Psychology and I think that helped me initially, especially in looking for resources, and being able to create an understanding of how the brain was wired differently in Autism. But Regressive Autism was something that completely baffled me. I pored over pages and pages on speech and language acquisition, speech therapy interventions but couldn’t come up with anything concrete on how children who lose speech through regression, acquire it again, or how long it takes (if ever).

What followed were many sleepless nights, that kept me awake…trying to understand how we had come to this point, how did we miss the red flags—disappearing words, losing eye contact, not responding to his name etc. But more importantly, what would the next course of action be. I reached out to a lot of people—friends, extended family members, individuals I had worked with and somehow, the process to find ways to work with him, just snowballed from there. It was like a ripple effect. The more I spoke about it, the more I interacted and engaged with people, and the more opportunities began to open up, for working with him.

Soon after his diagnosis, I did a three month in-person Parent and Child Training Program (PCTP) at Action for Autism, New Delhi. That was literally a game-changer of sorts, and it shifted the focus within me—from being an individual who felt ‘victimized’, by the circumstances to someone who felt ‘empowered’, learning strategies and new ways of engaging with him.

Right after the training at AFA, I created a page, “The Autism Niche” ( to write about and disseminate information on educators, parents and therapists who have been associated with the field of Disability, and more particularly, Autism. I have, at various points in time, carried out series of interviews with Speech Language Pathologists, Montessori teachers, Dance therapists, Special Educators and last but not the least, Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum. The page has been my way of connecting with other parents and professionals, and is also an endeavour to give back to the community.

Over the years, I have tried to keep myself abreast with new ways of working with him and I have undergone several trainings for the same.

*In 2018 I completed my B.Ed. in Special Education, with a specialization in Intellectual Disabilities (under RCI).

*Then I did the Dsylexia Teacher Training Certification (with Afshan Jabeen from Ripples Centre for Enhanced Learning, Hyderabad, in 2019).

*In the post-Covid world, several courses are now available online, for us. I took that opportunity and, I did a couple of courses online with Seema Ganjoo (an Autism Interventionist from Mumbai) on Executive Functioning and Perceptual Processing and Functional Language and Communication.

*I then did a Diploma in Art Therapy (more on the lines of Art as Psychotherapy) from an organization in Bangalore, a couple of certifications in Brain Gym and a self-paced course on Gestalt Language Processing from .

*And a couple of months ago, I did the Avaz Certified Educator Course.

So, I think its very important for one to be open to doing and learning new ways of working with our children.

Stumbling upon Gestalt Language Processing, last year, was truly transformative in the way I began to look at communication via phrases. Nowadays, I meticulously write down every phrase Kabir utters, and I often find that he uses the meaning of that phrase in the correct context.

I have been associated with Nayi Disha (a pan India resource centre on Developmental Disabilities) for close to 7 years now, as a parent advocate/mentor and I have also begun volunteering at Abhyasana (a centre working with children on the Autism Spectrum, in Hyderabad), since 2022.

Kabir has now blossomed into a child who is inquisitive, loves reading books and listening to various genres of music, enjoys creating art and has quite a vast vocabulary, although he is primarily non-speaking. He is able to communicate, and often does so, through echolalic phrases he has picked up from books/ music he listens to or even programs he watches.

Visual Art has been a transformative tool for Kabir. He has a sensory need for sticky surfaces and that’s how I got him to try finger painting. Introducing various forms of Art opened up new doors for him—it was not only a vessel to learn multiple concepts like colours, shapes and textures but also a means by which he could express his thoughts and emotions. He truly enjoys the process of creating art and is greatly inspired by Nature.
Kabir’s explorations in art have also led to several new connections for me. I began my association with Special Saathi, after Kabir was made a Creative Associate. I will be contributing regular pieces to the blog on Special Saathi, from this month.

I have been juggling various hats, professionally, since Kabir’s diagnosis. Initially I decided to take a sabbatical from work with a non-governmental organization, that I was working with. I then started my own brand, “Nijora” ( and on Instagram @nijoracrafts). I handcraft jewellery and make small batch skincare. I also work as an Independent Researcher and I try to work on subjects that are close to my heart—Northeast India Studies, Disability Studies, Gender, Autism, Caregiver Burden and Art. I have managed to publish articles on Disability Rights, Caregiver Burden and Caregiver Mental Health and Covid (over the past six years) in a few International Journals and co-authored a chapter in a book on Ecofeminism, last year.

While I agree, multi-tasking is not easy, but I truly believe that it is absolutely essential, that we all develop identities that are much more than just being an Autism parent. We all have a lot more potential within us, and we are stronger than we believe and we can be so much more, in life. It is also very important, that all women have financial independence and that we actively work towards realizing that.

For me, the journey of being an Autism parent has been a life changing experience. There is so much of me, today, that has been moulded by Kabir’s lived experience with Autism. Having a child on the Autism Spectrum has its fair share of challenges—innumerable ups and downs, frustration, anger, being driven to despair with many a sleepless night. But it also teaches one to slow down, celebrate even the smallest of milestones and accept the individuality of the child.

One has to dismantle internal frameworks and expectations, that one may have carefully built over the years.

Life with a child on the Autism Spectrum is definitely not a bed of roses but if we allow ourselves to step back and be mindful, from time to time, Autism can open up a new world for us!

Author Triveni Goswami Vernal

Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum.

Artwork by Triveni’s son Kabir Vernal Garden Lion”
It’s a whimsical take on a Lion who is looking rather benevolent with a wreath of flowers around it’s face.

Creative representation for Triveni’s changemakersaathi story is done by her son Kabir Vernal.



Registered Special Educator (A64010)

Speech and Language are two separate entities, even though more often than not, we tend to substitute one for the other. While Speech refers to the physical aspect, production of sounds etc, language involves the cognitive component (the syntax, grammar, ideas etc).

While we tend to associate Speech with Communication, speech alone, will not lead to communication. A lot of children on the Autism Spectrum, for example, may have speech, but they might not be able to communicate even their basic needs, through words that they know/ have in their repository. The primary focus, must be on developing Communication for the child. That can be done through various methods

—Hanen, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), Sign Language, AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) such as the Avaz app, S2C (Spelling 2 Communicate), RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) etc.

In children with Autism, we also tend to see evidence of Speech Apraxia, where there is a disconnect between the physical production of speech and their cognitive capabilities. While they may have an intact grammatical structure of words, they might be unable to reproduce that via speech.

Today, I would like to briefly touch upon GLP (Gestalt Language Processing) and Autism and especially my journey with it, so far. I will write a more detailed piece on its various stages etc, in a later blog.

Language Acquisition is usually seen as a Bottom-Up approach: a child begins to pick up sounds, then moves on to babbling, then single words, phrases, sentences, storytelling etc. By kindergarten/preschool, the child usually reaches this stage. This is also called Analytic Processing.

But there is another approach called the Gestalt Language Processing, wherein the Language Processing is Top Down. The child picks up entire phrases and sentences and then learns to mitigate it by breaking the “script” /whole phrases to add other words/phrases, to finally be able to self-generate language (which might not be grammatically correct initially, but may later evolve to achieve grammatical fluency.

Gestalt Language Processing is often seen as “Delayed Echolalia” and it is seen in both neurotypical children, as well as individuals with Autism.
This approach basically believes that there is a “communication intent”. That everything that is spoken by a child is done with an intent. No utterance /speech is meaningless. Everything is spoken with a certain understanding and is an effort to communicate.
So, is Gestalt Language Processing, a new thing? It is not. The first studies on it, were conducted in the early 1980s, but it was widely believed that children used both Analytic and Gestalt Language Processing (GLP), to process language. One of the reasons, GLP has gained attention recently, according to a blog “The Informed SLP”, is the sudden spate of pieces written by Autistic advocates, against Behaviour Therapy (BT) and their belief that BT puts an emphasis on changing how individuals with Autism, communicate with others. For a long time, Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) chose to ignore “scripts” spoken by individuals with Autism, as they considered them to be “meaningless”.
It is for us to figure out what it might be that the child is trying to covey through their “scripts”. Some of them, may be quite obvious to us, some others might not be.

Meaningful Speech- (an entity based in the US) carries out online courses on Natural Language Acquisition for Gestalt Language Processors. They have courses for both Speech Therapists as well as Parents and Special Educators.

I will cite an example of Gestalt Language Processing given in one of their videos. A child, while paying with stickers, during a therapy session kept saying “Oh! The truck has a flat tyre”. On the basis of her previous interactions with the child, the therapist could join the dots and make the connection that what the child meant to say, was that the sticker was “stuck” and she was unable to take it out. The phrase “Oh! The truck has a flat tyre” was from a You Tube video that the child often watched, that showed a truck with a flat tyre, that was “stuck”.
So, while, on the surface, the phrase “Oh! The truck has a flat tyre” may seem “meaningless” and unrelated to the situation at hand, digging a little deeper revealed that the child had used that phrase in a meaningful manner and it was a communication with intent. So, the gestalt (the echolalic phrase), the child used was absolutely perfect, taken in context.

As a parent of an 11 yr old on the Autism Spectrum, who is also quite echolalic, I have realized that learning about Gestalt Language Processing, has been a significant game changer for me, especially in the manner I view his communication, now. Since reading and learning more about it, I have begun to look at all his communication via the lens of GLP and I have realized how much of his valuable communication, I was missing out on, before.

For example, Kabir was taught to express pain through the words “dukhu, dukhu”, “it is hurting”, and point to the throat/ body part that was causing pain. It took us a while to join the dots, but we realized that often when he was scolded, he would say “dukhu dukhu, it is hurting”/”throat is hurting”, when there was no visible distress in his throat. What he meant to say, while using this phrase, was that he was “feeling hurt”, that we scolded him. So he basically learned to generalize that phrase/script and began to use it, to communicate when his feelings were also being hurt ! In another incident, one day Kabir, banged his forehead on the wall. When I asked him why he did that, he said “Slow motion. Accident happened”. There is an episode of Thomas and Friends, where the train meets with an accident, and it says “I cant’t stop! I can’t stop!. Perhaps, what Kabir was trying to say was that, it was an accident, and he could not stop himself from banging his head on the wall.

I, now meticulously maintain a log of all his utterances, and more often than not, he seems to be using the scripts in the correct context. Once we begin to see the potential of echolalic phrases as a means of communication, it changes how we fundamentally view communication.

This was a very brief introduction to Gestalt Language Processing. I will do a more detailed piece on it, later.

For further information and reading, please refer to the following resources: (for courses on GLP)
Northern Speech Services (They have a three Module course on Natural Language Acquisition for Gestalt Language Processors.

It is almost similar to the course available on the website. And they have tons of other courses on Speech and Language)
Book: Natural Language Acquisition on the Autism Spectrum: The Journey from Echolalia to Self-Generated Language by Marge Blanc, M.A., CCC-SLP, 2012 (This book is only available on the Northern Speech Services website).
Author Triveni Goswami Vernal
Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum.

Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal. Since the above article talks about Top-Down and Bottom -Up processing, Kabir’s artwork featured in this blog uses the same approachin its creation. Medium used is-
Soft Oil Pastels on Watercolor and Paper-
Postcard Size


The big jhappi podcast “Keep er lit”

Today’s podcast is featuring Triveni Goswami Vernal from “The Autism Niche” and her podcast is titled ” GLP Podcast”. Listen it here to know more about Gestalt Language Processing (GLP)

Author Triveni Goswami Vernal

Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum.



By Triveni Goswami Vernal 
Special Educator (A64010)

Perception is the process through which an individual experiences and interprets sensory information, from the world around them.

Perception is a more complex process in comparison to Sensation. Sensation is the process of detection of sensory stimuli through various sensory receptors located in the sense organs, whereas, Perception is the detection, organization and interpretation of the sensory stimuli. 

There are 7 sensory systems in the human body—5 basic systems that are more popularly known by all, and 2 other sensory systems that are equally important. The five basic sensory systems are Sight (Vision), Smell (Olfactory), Hearing (Auditory), Touch (Tactile) and Taste (Gustatory).  The other two are Vestibular (Movement) and Proprioception (Bodily Position).

Sensory Integration is the process by which information from all the senses can be perceived and integrated in a proper manner. Often, in children with Autism, the integration between various sensory processes is not in sync, thus creating numerous kinds of challenges in the way they perceive the world around them. 
For example, some children may have lots of sensitivities towards sound. It could be a type of sound (pressure cooker whistle, or the mixer), or a particular frequency of a sound, that may go undetected by others (example, whirring of a fan). When a certain sensory stimulation overwhelms them, they tend to engage in actions to avoid them as much as possible. In comparison, when it underwhelms them, they tend to seek it out. These actions often take the form of Stims (Self Stimulatory Behaviour). 
Unless it causes self-harm, or is harmful towards others, Stimming need not be stopped. In fact, we need to acknowledge the behaviour, and if one feels it is impacting their day to day functioning or not allowing them to carry out a task to completion, then, a designated time can be given to them, during the task (like a break), and/or during the day, for them to stim at leisure. 

Each of the 7 Sensory Systems has its own Perceptual Processes. The Visual and Auditory Perceptual Processes will be explained in greater detail, than the others. 

1) VISUAL PERCEPTION: Simply put, Visual Perception is the ability of the brain to detect visual sensory input and interpret in a way, that helps an individual to perceive the world, visually. 

There are several kinds of Visual Perceptions (Ref: ) —  

a) “Visual discrimination: The ability to distinguish one shape from another.

b) Visual memory: The ability to remember a specific form when removed from your visual field.

c) Visual-spatial relationships: The ability to recognize forms that are the same but may be in a different spatial orientation.

d) Visual form constancy: The ability to discern similar forms that may be different in size, color, or spatial orientation and to consistently match the similar forms.

e) Visual sequential memory: The ability to recall two to seven items in sequence with vision obstructed

f) Visual figure/ground: The ability to discern discrete forms when camouflaged or partially hidden

g) Visual closure: The ability to recognize familiar forms that are only partially completed.”

2) AUDITORY PERCEPTION: It is the ability to identify and interpret an auditory stimulus and to decode its meaning.  

According to an article by ChildPsych (a group of child psychologists in South Africa), there are several kinds of Auditory Perception Skills:

a) Auditory Figure Ground:  The ability to focus on one sound in the midst of several others.
b) Auditory Discrimination: The ability to detect similarities and differences between various sounds, such as dog and bog. 
c) Auditory Closure:  The ability to complete or add sounds that was not heard. For example, if the child heard a sentence only partially, Close the d…when you go out”, the child may be able to make out that the word he missed was “door”.
d) Auditory Spatial Awareness: The ability to recognize or identify the source of the sound. 
e) Auditory Analysis and Auditory Synthesis: Auditory Analysis is the ability to perceive that words are made of syllables and sentences are made of words. It is an important element of Spelling. Whereas, Auditory Synthesis is the ability to identify that blending syllables makes new words and words together, make a sentence. Hence this ability is important for Reading. 
f) Auditory Memory: It refers to the ability to remember things that have been heard, and recollect it at a later point in time. 

3) OLFACTORY PERCEPTION: It refers to the ability to detect olfactory stimulation and identify the particular odour.  Olfactory Perception is an important life-saving skill as it involves the ability to detect smells that can signal a dangerous situation or an emergency, such as the smell of things burning or a leak in Gas /fuel etc. 

4) GUSTATORY PERCEPTION:  It is the ability to perceive the gustatory stimulation and identify various kinds of tastes (Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty and Umami). 
5) TACTILE PERCEPTION: It refers to the ability to identify an object through a sense of touch/ pressure on the skin. It includes the ability to discriminate between various kinds of pressure applied on the skin (Light touch/Heavy touch such as squeezing), discriminate between temperatures (hot/cold), and also how the person uses this ability to interact with the world around them. For example, while touching surfaces or holding a pencil to write etc.
6) VESTIBULAR PERCEPTION: It is the ability to detect the position and movement of the head in relation to the space around the person. It gives a sense of balance. 
7) PROPRIOCEPTIVE PERCEPTION: It is the ability of the “body to sense its location, movements and actions” (  For example, we can pick up a pencil from the floor without actually looking at it. 

1) VISUAL PERCEPTION: I will share activities for each type of Visual Perception.

a) Visual Discrimination: Sorting, Jigsaw Puzzles, Eye Tracking, Word Mazes etc

b) Visual Memory: Memory Games, What is Missing?

c) Visual Spatial Relationships: Riding a bike through an Obstacle Course, Gross motor activities with closed eyes, Climbing activities etc

d) Visual Form Constancy: Looking for Objects in a room according to a particular shape, Picture Books, Using play dough to create shapes of things and matching them etc

e) Visual Sequential Memory: Memory Games, Keep an array of object on¬ a tray, show the child for some time, then rearrange the sequence under a cloth and ask the child to replicate the same etc.
f)   Visual Figure-Ground: I Spy, Word Searches, Matching an animal outline to its shadow etc

g) Visual Closure: Drawing the complete animal, when presented with an incomplete outline, Partially cover some fruits with a cloth and ask to identify what they are  etc


a) Auditory Figure Ground: Trying to listen to a song, when there is a lot of background noise, listen to an instruction from a person when a song is playing in the background etc.
b) Auditory Discrimination: Give the child similar sounding words to Listen to, such as Forty/Fourteen, Dog/Bog, House/Mouse; Identifying common sounds in the environment (one can audio record sounds that are familiar, such as car horns, sirens, pressure cooker whistle, mixer grinder etc).

c) Auditory Closure: Sing a familiar song, leave a word/few words/sentence and let the child complete it. 
d) Auditory Spatial Awareness: Activities that involve Listening to an instruction with a lot of noise in the background; Trying to locate the source of the sound (which direction is it coming from) etc

e) Auditory Analysis and Auditory Synthesis: Activities include Reading to the children every day; Teaching them to blend syllables (phonics) to form words(d-o-g). Auditory Analysis helps the child in Spelling (recognizing that a word is made up of syllables or sentences are made of words etc) and Auditory Synthesis helps the child in Reading (recognizing that syllables make a word etc).     

f) Auditory Memory: Memory Games, Listening to instructions to draw a visual/s, Listening to a string of words and trying to recall them in the correct order (Auditory sequential memory) etc.

3) OLFACTORY PERCEPTION: Activities include learning to discriminate between various smells, Good and Dangerous smells (Burning /Gas leak/Fuel leak etc).

4) GUSTATORY PERCEPTION: Eating different types of food (in terms of taste/ texture etc)

5) TACTILE PERCEPTION: Activities that include, an exposure to various textures (soft/hard/brittle/mushy); Walking on various kinds of Textures (spiky/ sand/ on pebbles/ soft mat etc); Keep a small bag of various kinds of objects and ask the child to put his hand inside, without looking, touch the objects and guess what each of them are etc
6) VESTIBULAR PERCEPTION: Activities include Spinning on a chair with wheels; Standing on a Balance board; Climbing a ladder; Crawling through a tunnel etc

7) PROPRIOCEPTION PERCEPTION: Activities include Jumping in an obstacle course; Jumping Jacks; Climbing, Wheelbarrow walking; Swinging etc

In conclusion, we can see how significant each of these perceptual systems are for an overall integration of the sensory experience of our children. As parents and educators, we should ensure that along with various Functional Academic skills and Activities of Daily Living, we also focus on activities for each of these Perceptual Systems thereby helping the child to function more effectively in their day- to-day life. 

While a parent can try and include sensory activities at home, to the best of their knowledge, it is best to consult a trained Occupational Therapist for an assessment and plan. 

Author Triveni Goswami Vernal

Special Educator (A64010)

Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum.T

The artwork for this blog is done by our CreativeSaathi associate and Triveni’s son Kabir Vernal.


Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms symbolize rebirth and renewal. And they are associated with the onset of Spring. Cherry Blossoms are widely seen in the mountainous terrains of Himachal, Meghalaya and Kashmir. This is the idea and inspiration behind Kabir’s latest artwork “Cherry Blossoms “

“Cherry Blossoms “
Artist: Kabir Vernal CreativeSaathi associate
Medium: Poster Paints on Watercolour Paper
Size: A4 (8.7 inch x 11.7 inch)

The artwork involves process art with extensive finger painting, and the use of a brush for only the flowers in the foreground. Kabir loves playing with sticky textures, hence finger painting is something he truly enjoys.

Artist Kabir Vernal

Kabir Vernal, is a 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum from Hyderabad. He is primarily non-verbal. Although he has a fairly big vocabulary, his communication is still very limited and need based only. He loves playing with sticky textures, colours and the process of creating art.

Kabir enjoys the process, often choosing the colour palette and the subject of his art. His artwork styles include abstract floral art (with loose brush strokes), process art, abstract expressionism and intuitive art. Kabir loves spending time outdoors amidst nature.

Art by Kabir is one of the labels on SpecialSaathi’s OnlineShop [e-commerce platform] Art By Kabir– is an initiative to showcase art and art based products created by Kabir Vernal and are available on sale on Satviki. His artwork styles include abstract floral art (with loose brush strokes) , process art, abstract expressionism and intuitive  art.

A selection of his artworks is also available for sale on the Atypical Advantage website,

And his artworks are annually printed as blank greeting cards, that are sold via the Instagram and Facebook pages of Art By Kabir

Instagram: @artby.kabir