CADRRE (Centre for Autism and Other Disabilities Rehabilitation Research and Education): Transforming Lives with Holistic Care


Children with autism have particular learning impairments that might make it difficult for them to understand an assignment or lesson plan in a regular school setting. Autism schools provide them with a curriculum that is adapted to their needs. A customised curriculum should be in accordance with their Individualised Education Plan-IEP and offer them the resources and skills they require to achieve their objectives. In addition to providing a customized curriculum, autism schools like CADRRE also offer a range of specialized resources and support services to help students with autism thrive.

CADRRE (Centre for Autism and other Disabilities Rehabilitation Research and Education) is one of the schools which was registered as a not-for-profit organisation on 30 December 2016 in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Its journey started with an initial team of four professionals working from a room of a house; they put together assessment formats, developed a curriculum, procured therapy and intervention tools and looked into the design of CADRRE’s first facility. Their visits to the best institutions working in Autism in the US and UK, and India informed their choices.

The centre has landscaped gardens, a butterfly garden, sensory walkways and a sensory wading pool, a sensory room, an aviary, a toy library, and well-thought-out classrooms that suit the needs of the children. Each day begins for the children at  9.00 am assembling in the common hall to dance to the wake-up song, greet their friends and have a session of yoga. Students then move into their respective classes for sessions in speech therapy, occupational therapy and life skills, social skills, academics, art and music. Children who are inclined to academics are taught grade-level curriculum with the aim of mainstreaming them into regular inclusive schools.

Transforming Lives 

The vision of the school is to transform the lives of people with Autism through best practice principles and family-centred holistic care across the lifespan.

The school is on a mission to achieve the following objectives

  • Provide evidence-based, individualised intervention programs
  • Provide a developmental-specific and structured learning program
  • Monitoring and managing comorbidities and progress (continuous assessment)
  • Provide continued family education and support
  • Empower the family to be the primary therapist
  • Foster important skills
  • Assist in mainstreaming formal education and employment
  • Provide empowering assisted living for adults with autism
  • Conduct research on the different aspects of autism and its comorbidities
  • Advocacy for Autistic children and affected families
  • Help design appropriate government policies to strengthen intervention programs continually

The organisation has been maintaining the following core values

  • Pursue Excellence
  • Focus on Inputs and Results
  • Holistic Approach
  • Build Trust
  • Innovate
  • Work with Integrity
  • Nurture the Team
  • Practice Frugality
  • Introspect

Bringing Likeminded People Together

Vijaya Raghavan, Hon. Director of CADRRE, is the founder and former CEO of India’s first technology park (Technopark) and the former President of the International Association of Science Parks (Asia Pacific). He was also a member of the Kerala State Planning Board and the Kerala State Council of Science Technology and Environment. He is also the founder and former honorary director of the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH), set up as a not-for-profit in 1997 with support from the government of Kerala. He also played a key role in Kerala’s State Initiative on Disabilities, which implemented the free cochlear implant program benefiting 948 children thus far. When he noticed that there was a dearth of infrastructure to support individuals on the Autism spectrum, he set up CADRRE in 2016 with the support of a group of like-minded people.

Expanding the Capabilities

The school has done nearly 750 free Autism assessments and provided interdisciplinary intervention in a school setting for over 80 children with Autism, of whom 50 are currently enrolled. It has trained 24 young adults with Autism free of cost so far, resulting in two paid internships at Ernst & Young.

It also provides after-school intervention to seven children attending regular school and skills training to two adolescents from the Autism School. Seven families have benefitted so far from the free-of-cost Parent-Mediated Intervention program, and through the Pay Autention project, the school provides online awareness and first-level support for Autism to families in remote areas of India.

Standing Tall Against the Barriers

The school constantly needs funds to maintain and expand the most impactful and unique program – the interdisciplinary intervention for autistic children in a school setting – to more families. Given that the children require 1:1 care from the team of professionals and accounting for the scholarships it provides to deserving families, it meets only about 50 per cent of the financial needs for the program through fees from parents. The school raises the remaining from well-wishers through campaigns and project-based funding requests for CSR funds of corporates.

The school also has been facing a little reluctance from employers when it comes to hiring trainees from Employability Training Program because they are not sure about what changes they would need to make to their workplaces to be able to support them. CADRRE provides catalyst training for employees and ongoing support to job coaches to build up their confidence in working with autistic individuals.

The school believes there is a dearth of qualified and committed rehabilitation professionals specialising in the area of Autism.

Exposing Students to Social Situations

Every Friday, Functional Friday activities are held on different themes to expose the children to new social situations that could be challenging for autistic students. Visits to the grocery store, restaurant and hospital, and setting up a cafe and theatre at the school are a few of the activities that the school has carried out. This aims to teach the children what to expect and appropriate behaviour in these settings. Cooking, gardening, doing laundry etc., are some of the activities that the children especially enjoy during their Functional Fridays.


CADRRE offers internship and fieldwork placements to master students in speech therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, special education and social work from reputed institutions in India and abroad, such as the National Institute of Speech and Hearing, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, San Francisco State University, University of Southern California.

It often hosts experts in the field of Autism from all around the globe to interact with parents and provide inputs to therapists – Dr Catherine Lord from the University of California Los Angeles, Dr Vinod Menon from Stanford University, Mr Manoj Pathanapuram from Singapore International Foundation, Mr Dan Phillips from the Nika project, to name a few.

Creating a Pool of Experts

The International Autism Conference, organised by CADRRE on two occasions before COVID in 2018 and 2019, brought together the best minds and expertise from around the world with the objective of creating a pool of experts from diverse fields working in the area of autism for knowledge sharing, exchanging ideas and promoting collaboration to provide better facilities for individuals on the spectrum.

The two conferences were the first of their kind to be held in South India; spread across three days, they saw more than 46 speakers from 11 countries. This pool of experts continues to collaborate with CADRRE, assisting by conducting workshops and training sessions for the purpose of research.

‘Peaks’ During the Journey

CADRRE supported the Kerala Development and Innovation Strategic Council (K-DISC) and Kerala Social Security Mission (KSSM) in their programs for young individuals with Autism.

It hosted Dr Catherine Lord from the University of California Los Angeles as part of the Fulbright Specialist Program by the United States India Educational Fund

It provided a Brown Bag presentation to Occupational Therapy students at the University of Southern California Global Initiatives

Individualised Education Plan

Every child is different and unique, and when it comes to Autism, it is rightly called the ‘Autism spectrum’ because no two children with Autism are alike. This is why CADRRE comes up with an Individualised Education Plan (IEP) for every child. It is pivotal that the child is exposed to multiple experiences and skill sets and finds an area where the child has a keen interest in or enjoys doing.

Students with special needs have more challenges to navigate through, and hence it becomes vital that we provide them with an ecosystem where they can try and become better in any area/skill that they enjoy doing rather than pressuring them to achieve what is perceived to be useful.

Developing strength-based learning strategies, using assistive technologies as learning tools and for communication, creating positive modifications in their daily ecosystem and learning environment and constantly training them in basic communication can go a long way to help them in leading productive lives and have a social life and to be a contributing member of the society.

Aim for the Long-run

CADRRE envisions a 30-acre self-sufficient campus on the outskirts of Trivandrum city that supports individuals on the spectrum through their lifespan – from early diagnosis and intervention to primary and secondary school education, higher education, skill building, capacity building and assisted living, besides work in research, policy and advocacy. The campus will benefit individuals with Autism and their families, faculty, professionals, employers, and society. In the long run, CADRRE aims to become the best centre for Autism in India in 3 years and in Asia in five years.


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