Shashikala MS

Managing Trustee

I am an overtime mother of two very energetic teenagers, a full-time special educator, a part-time writer and a retired journalist. As women often do, I am everything I do, all the time.

 I have been working with and learning from children with autism for 9 years now. I have learnt valuable life lessons of empathy, patience and resilience. I have learnt that actions speak a thousand words, literally. Working with children and young adults with extreme expressive communication difficulties have helped me interpret silence as well as aggression.

Now I know every behavior has a reason, whether the actor is on the autism spectrum or off it.

In the beginning…

With a Master’s in Mass Communication and Journalism, I started as a reporter with the Indian Express (Mumbai) Ltd writing about telecommunication technology and market, when pagers were cutting-edge, bulky cell phones were making an entry amidst the GSM-CDMA debate and information technology industry was gripped with Y2K frenzy.  Then with the Economic Times, edited and wrote stories about hardcore networking and data communication technologies, among myriad other business writings. From journalism to developing techno-commercial content for IT majors in India, I am witness to both development of technology and its commercial applications.

As motherhood took over life and family assumed priority, I moved into child development and early education. Montessori consumed my interest enough to volunteer with one for a good 5 years. Close association with the Montessori house of children and its founder pushed me to learn more and I landed in KPAMRC, an organization that trains people to work with children with autism, MR and specific learning disabilities. Equipped with a special ed diploma from them, I went back to the Montessori as the head of its special ed initiative.

A year later in 2015, my own school, Leap Years – a learning center for children with special needs was born. Started with one child, the center has touched over 60 children with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, global developmental delays and specific learning disabilities in the last 6 years of its existence. With a no-refusal policy, Leap Years works with children on the severe end of the spectrum. With the pandemic altering our reality, Leap Years has successfully transitioned to online mode of learning. I am now a head of the institution who also makes differential learning materials, couriers them to children and works with parents to make sure children continue to learn.

Editorial services

Through all these years, I have continued to offer editorial services through ASK Associates, a company I founded circa 2005, and a private limited company (2015) owned jointly with my husband, Anees Ahmed.

In the course of time, I have developed several hundred case studies, white papers and numerous marcom materials for IT companies, edited a software technology magazine for an Indian IT major, a magazine each on retail industry (Point of Purchase) and manufacturing industry (Industrial Spectrum), set-up and headed content divisions at marcom and advertising agencies, helped design a technology experience centre for a Bangalore-based IT major, formulated curriculum for a pre-school, and helped launch two schools in Bangalore. And co-ordinated a post-graduate certificate course in autism for over 6 years, the most enriching period of my personal and emotional growth.

I am currently associated with Hank Nunn Institute, an NGO making mental health services available and affordable to all.  Also working with Bhoomiputri, an agri-incubator for women entrepreneurs, as their resource person.

And yes, I believe in continued education. I am currently pursuing my masters in clinical psychology and a course in botanical printing. And looking forward to becoming a farmer soon.