Life Skill Trainer Ayukta Thakur
Growing up in Kobe (Japan) played a foundational role in laying down Ayukta’s perspective towards the world. The country’s instilled philosophy taught her empathy and patience from a young age, for which she is forever grateful. Pursuing her under-graduation from the US, Israel and the UK provided the necessary exposure and opportunities. Her first brush with special needs was through volunteering work at a center. Post a diploma in special education, Ayukta continued teaching and developed an intrigue for the mind vs. brain debate. She was keen to understand the nature of influence a mind exerts on the actions and perspectives of differently abled individuals. This led to her pursuing a Master’s Degree in Mental Health, at the University of Liverpool.
Ayukta has always loved kids, and working around people. This aided the evolution of a hobby into a passion. An opportunity to teach was grabbed and nurtured. She believes that access to education and healthcare is a fundamental human right, and this drives her determination to work with differently abled individuals who may not have this privilege.
Teaching is a demanding activity, since it requires an inherent willingness to empathize with a student and discover an appropriate approach to help them understand. Ayukta is good at what she does, going above and beyond to create an effective learning environment. “I’ve learnt basic sign language, Makaton signs, I’ve had to differentiate an activity five different ways in order for all my students to gain access to the same learning object. Every day is such an adventure, although it’s exhausting and overwhelming emotionally at times, it’s exciting and rewarding at the same time.” Ayukta is attuned to her students’ abilities and inclination to learn. This motivates her to stay put.
Through her work, she sees wisdom and finds joy. Appreciating the skill sets her team brings to the table allows her to be surrounded with people she can learn from. Her students are her source of inspiration - seeing their willingness to challenge all disability and focus on their strengths.
Ayukta mentions how the excessive focus on early intervention for special needs, results in the evolving needs for teenagers and adults being ignored. As individuals grow up, the services to be provided need to adapt to every stage. Through Integreat Center, she addresses this gap by providing life skills and vocational training to young adults with special needs. Her work finds resonance in her students and the parents community. “I’ve seen my students reach a level of independence or assisted independence in various life skills that we often take for granted. I’ve seen my students become more confident over time. These internal accomplishments by the students has allowed the center to evolve.”
Ayukta loves her work, and it defines who she is. It has been a journey towards self-actualization. “On an emotional level - my students move me, my passion moves me, and my family moves me. Food too plays an important role (haha).”
She is currently writing a thesis on ‘the psychosocial well being of neurotypical siblings who grew up with a sibling with special needs’, and terms it as her most immersive experience till date. Ayukta stresses on the attention that needs to be given to siblings of those with special needs , helping them accommodate and better adapt to what life will bring them through the longest-lived relationship between siblings. It has been an eye opening experience to discover the internal conflicts of an individual, and understanding how someone’s actions could contradict what the minds asks them to do.
Keeping one’s emotions aside in this profession can be understandably difficult, and Ayukta shares how challenging it tends to be while working closely with parents and siblings of the individual with special needs. Communicating that there is not a direct ‘cure’ for the condition is a balancing act between empathy and logic, between the heart and the mind, and is the first step to acceptance, which Ayukta stresses. As she spreads awareness on inclusion and integration of differently abled individuals, we are proud to see how she has evolved as an entrepreneur and an educator.