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SEWA Service in Action: SAPNA

Members of SAPNA hold up their mandala art during one of our Friday meetups.
Members of SAPNA hold up their mandala art during one of our Friday meetups.

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. In honor of that fact, we’d like to formally introduce one of our newer programs, SAPNA! South Asian Persons of Neurodiverse Abilities, or SAPNA, is a peer-to-peer support group. Sapna, or ‘सपना’ in Hindi, also means “Dream.”

At its core, SAPNA is a peer support and resource-sharing group. As in the name, it is for South Asian persons of neurodiverse abilities and their families. This is a safe, confidential space for those in our community who are living with and alongside neurodiversity.

SAPNA is still in its infancy, but our current group has been together since November. While numbers can fluctuate, there has been a steady group of 10 to 15. It is our hope that SAPNA will grow into a gathering place for all neurodiverse persons in our community. No one has to be alone.

Who is SAPNA For?

SAPNA serves a specific audience: South Asian persons of neurodiverse abilities and their families.

Typically, “neurodiversity” primarily refers to the Autism spectrum. However, we, like many, include much more under the word. People with ADHD, traumatic brain injuries, and more are welcome! The makeup of the group tends to fluctuate. If you are South Asian and self-identify with being neurodiverse, this is a group for you.

Furthermore, if you have a family member who identifies as neurodiverse, we encourage you to join as well. After all, SAPNA is about community, peer support, and sharing resources with one another.

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What is SAPNA’s Impact?

SAPNA has maintained a steady, diverse group of 10 to 15 since November. Size and makeup tends to change, but SAPNA changes right along with it. This group is about addressing an unmet need. As such, it is meant to be malleable and to adapt to meet the needs of the group at any given time. Most recently, we have made efforts to make SAPNA inclusive of non-binary, trans, and queer folks.

Members of SAPNA have expressed their happiness in finding a support network. Neurodiversity is still heavily stigmatized in our community. Up to this point, there hasn’t really been anything filling the gap that SAPNA addresses. Our group has become something of an extended family for many of our members, who previously had little to no peer network. It’s a place where members can learn about themselves and/or their family members they attend with. Families can connect with other families, share resources, and support one another.

More than that, SAPNA is about starting a conversation around neurodiversity in our community. We want to show that it’s not something to be hidden away. Nonetheless, SAPNA is completely confidential and judgement-free for all members.

The Future of SAPNA

As the program grows and evolves, we aim to extend our support to students who experience learning difficulties due to different abilities, such as dyslexia.

We are working to learn the barriers and needs for the South Asian neurodiverse community so we can help navigate systems and find more support and resources.

Recently, our group has expressed a few additions they’d like to see to the program, so we’re developing those as well. One such addition will be Microboards. Microboards are small groups of dedicated family and friends who help create a community board. These will become a source of ongoing support and resources for members. We’re working with our group to develop this.

We’re also working on charting a LifeCourse. This is a tool that can be used by individuals on a team to help a person with neurological challenges, especially around times of transition. It’s a process that helps the person communicate needs, advocate for themselves, and discuss their own hopes and goals.

As the weather turns, we’re hoping to have some distanced, in-person outdoor meetings. With the help of our group’s members and the work of our SAPNA program coordinators, the future of the group is looking bright!

SAPNA meets Fridays at 11:30am. Click here to go to our Events calendar.

Follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

Click here to visit SAPNA’s homepage.

(ex. Indian, Pakistani, Mixed race, West Indian)

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