It is an honour to interview Dr. Sonali Kataria, founder-director of Sunrise Learning Foundation about her latest venture – Sunrise Shoppee. Dr. Sonali Katari completed her MD from AIIMS and is trained in Son-Rise program and is a certified Autism Specialist. Her nine year old son, Poorab, is on the Autism spectrum and is the inspiration behind starting Sunrise learning foundation, a non-profit organization that is dedicated towards providing educational and support services to children with Autism and special needs and their families. With many innovative decor products that are the result of vocational training, Sunrise shoppee is a visual treat. Let’s learn about this wonderful shoppee
Q) What is the inspiration behind starting Sunrise Shoppe?
The greatest inspiration for this initiative called Sunrise Shoppe, are the children with special needs, especially with autism. I realized that whatever social and daily living skills are taught to them, in school and at home, actually need to be implemented and applied in a way that the children can utilize those skills to their advantage.
A shop is a great way to teach more than a 100 skills in a generalized way: following instructions, working independently, money skills, conversation skills, creative abilities, managing accounts, entering data, matching and sorting things, being responsible for their belongings, taking care of things, cleaning up shelves and things, respecting authority, customers and time, answering phone calls, receiving orders, noting down address and phone number, booking orders, calling the customers back, packing the objects, sending parcels to the correct address, unpacking things and putting them on display, showing off their best creations and so much more.
Q) What are the various products available Sunrise Shoppe with details please.
Creations of students: wall hangings, paintings, pen stands, Diwali décor, Christmas candles, paper cups, paper plates, calendars, coasters, lanterns, key holders etc.
Customized books for children, communication boards & books, schedule books & boards, student journals and diaries, autism calendars, structured activities for children with autism, social stories related to common challenging social situations for children etc
Q) How many students are currently learning vocational courses here? A few details about the vocational courses available
As of now, we have started with 6 Vocational Training Courses for children (16 to 18 years) and young adults
(18 – 25 years) with various special needs
1. Retail shop management
2. Creative Production Skills
3. Basic Office Skills
4. Basic Computer Skills
5. Hospitality and Housekeeping skills
6. Specific skills Courses: Tailoring for cloth bags, pillow covers, cushion covers, towels / Making
Disposables (paper cups, paper plates etc)
These are 2 years courses. The students are provided with training in all the 6 courses in the first year and in the 2nd year, they are streamlined towards 2-3 courses that they can become independent in. Retail shop management is the main course that is being conducted in the Sunrise Shoppe.
As of now 4 students are enrolled in the VTCs.
Q) When did the vocational training courses start? How it has helped them?
The courses have started since September 2018, and one student has already conducted 3 exhibitions of his hand-made creations in this duration: 2 at Sunrise Learning and 1 in a society Diwali Mela. He feels more confident in speaking about his creations, and showing them to people and his dignity and self-esteem have got a boost due to this exposure. Also, his money skills are improving due to the continuous buying and selling exercises
Q) Where is the shop located and what are working hours?
It is located in the heart of Noida, at SUNRISE LEARNING, Plot number SD 01 sector 116, next to sector 77 within
the school premises.
Timings are 9 am to 3 pm
Q) Tell us more about the various books available at your store with details and also about customized books.
The customized books are designed to provide big clear visuals for teaching simple concepts to children with the help of clear pictures, symbols and text.
The books are not only meant to teach concepts, but are also meant to teach coping mechanisms to children for various difficult situations. The picture comprehension books help the children to learn to answer simple questions from the given pictures. The story sequence books help the children to put the story pictures in a sequence and then narrate the story.
Q) Please share a few details about the mission Diwali exhibition
It was an attempt to celebrate the uniqueness of each special-needs child. The exhibition was organized with a mission to provide a platform of opportunity to every child, who has a specific interest, and to build on their skills, interests and talents. All the children who participated, were offered a stall/ counter to put up their creations. Most participants were in the age-groups of 8 to 12 years. Two children had put up Bhelpuri and Dahi Bhalla stalls They were being helped by their parents and the Sunrise Learning team, but they felt extremely happy in making the chaat, and giving it to the “customers” and taking Rs 20, Rs 30 from those customers, and then returning the change back (with help). Some children had put up their own hand-made creations: diya and Diwali décor stalls. Some children had put up a stall to show “how to grow your own plant”.
The children got an opportunity to introduce themselves and their stalls.
The exhibition ended with some parents and children’s fun games, and a energy-packed dance session conducted by Taal Dance Academy.
So the exposure and the opportunities to interact with the society, helped the children to build on their social
skills, in a very “worldly” way.
Q) Would you like to share your future plans for Sunrise shoppe with us?
I see the shoppe as a medium of providing unique learning and earning opportunities to the children, at the same time giving them the confidence of managing the shoppe independently, and showcasing their own handmade creations, and earning from them.
The shoppe can grow to be a grand opportunity of entering the world of commerce and communication.
Q) Your advice to Autism parents about the importance of vocational skills and how to nurture them?
Children with autism are naturally and inherently wired for good work environments.
They have natural abilities to do skill training from a very early stage.
The best way to nurture skill training is to find their strengths, identify their interests and inclinations and hone their already existing skills to slowly go to the next levels of exploring further and venturing into the non-preferred tasks gradually.
The people with autism grow up to be great working professionals (and the most sought-after ones by companies), if they are provided with a good learning habits through good routines and structured environments from an early stage.
If you are an entrepreneur, who wishes to have a great workforce of employees, and you have work that can perhaps interest a person with autism, then an autistic person is the best employee for you. Autistic employees do not gossip, can focus on the minute details, can keep doing the same kind of work for hours and hours, without getting bored, do not get pissed off by sarcastic remarks, nor do they make any, they can do amazingly brilliant jobs at visual tasks, they don’t care whether it’s a low profile job, or people look down upon it, and they never throw loose comments or vague commitments. And they are ALWAYS rule-oriented. So, they will be the last persons to break any rules. They know how to keep your word.
With immense love and dedication, Dr. Sonali Kataria is nurturing the spirit of individuals with Autism with hope and chanelling their creative energy to develop amazing products. Not only vocational skills but communication and life skills are also developed. What more can we ask for? We need more people like her to come forward and start more ventures like this. God Bless you and all the very best Dr. Sonali kataria!
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