By Manisha Lad
Founder & Executive Director at Akhil Autism Foundation
Tracing My Journey
As I stand in the heart of New Jersey, in the realm I’ve lovingly nurtured, I trace my journey, a journey that began as a personal endeavor and has since, transcended into a collective mission; one that resonates far beyond the confines of my immediate community. My name is Manisha Lad, the proud founder of The Sensory Pathway Center, as well as the Akhil Autism Foundation in Dayton, New Jersey, a haven where neurodiversity thrives.
My journey into the world of neurodiversity began when my son, Akhil Lad, was diagnosed with autism. The struggle to find resources and guidance that catered to his unique needs was challenging. Yet, amidst the labyrinth of trials and tribulations, hope emerged. As a mother, I not only saw but felt the need for resources, a haven, a place that would foster my son’s continuous success. I knew that if I had these feelings, countless others undoubtedly felt the need for a similar sanctuary. This became my mission. It was my mission as a mother to my son – I wanted him to have the best care and support possible, as I believe is the case for most, if not all, mothers in the world. That very idea became central to my undertaking. While Akhil was (and forever will be) my most significant driving force, I found myself with a passion and desire to facilitate a nurturing environment for individuals like Akhil. That spark of hope was the genesis of The Sensory Pathway Center.
Fostering Awareness and Acceptance of Neurodiversity
Standing as a safe and engaging sanctuary for all, its vision is to nourish and foster each person’s unique essence, recognizing their abilities, and celebrating their triumphs. Our rooms echo daily with stories of victory, silent achievements, and quiet success, reflecting the spirit of our community. These stories continuously drive a joint resolve to do more and be more, inspiring us to reach new heights. It’s grown to become more than just a ‘center’ – it’s a conduit fostering awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity. The synergy I’ve had the pleasure of crafting with luminaries and organizations amplifies the echo chambers needed to improve the world for those with neurodiversity challenges.
Collaborative ventures with distinguished personalities like Dr. Temple Grandin and Deepak Chopra have been significant milestones for the shared mission to educate and promote neurodiversity, and improve the quality of life for individuals with neurological differences. We strive to provide a venue for people with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other related conditions to learn about themselves, each other, and the world around them.
I envision hosting seminars, workshops, conferences, and seminars on employment opportunities for individuals with special needs, family support groups, self-advocacy training for adults with disabilities; navigating the education system, advocacy skills development, legal rights issues, social skills training, etc.
I am well aware of how much of an undertaking the above is; however, I am also acutely aware this is what is needed to ensure a world of true equality — and something we must never lose sight of.
The Sensory Pathway recently entered into an alliance with GeoGreens for pre-vocational training. This partnership signifies our enduring commitment to intertwining the realms of neurodiversity with sustainable practices. Together, we strive to foster change throughout our community and beyond, ensuring each individual finds their rightful place to thrive. We envision a world where every person with autism has the opportunity to reach their full potential. We must work together to achieve a common goal: improving the lives of individuals living with ASD through innovative approaches.
Each day unfolds new avenues for us – all of us – to champion neurodiversity.
The Path Forward
The smiles that light up the faces of individuals, and the ripple of positive change that emanates from the sensory pathway and beyond, are the rewards that fuel my resolve. The experiences, the alliances, the community engagements, and the expanding horizons all meld together to create what I believe is the “big picture,” reverberating with hope, acceptance, and empowerment.
While it’s true this voyage emanated from my personal need, it quickly transformed into a mission far more significant than myself. It’s now a mission that includes everyone who has rallied around me or championed a shared vision.
As I look towards the future, I invite you to join, whether in person or in spirit, in becoming an advocate. Please join me on my path so it becomes the path forward. Let’s embrace the melody of neurodiversity, nurture the seeds of potential, and foster a world where everyone finds their rightful realm to thrive.
I am on a never-ending quest to promote the understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity. With unwavering determination, My lifelong goal is to create a world where everyone is valued and appreciated for their unique abilities and perspectives. I invite you to not only do the same, but I also encourage you to extend the same ask to everyone you know, as there is power in numbers. Let’s work together to make a positive impact on our communities and every person within them.
Manisha Lad’s son, Akhil Lad, was diagnosed with Autism at eighteen (18) months. Manisha and her husband devoted themselves to providing Akhil with the most suitable treatments available in the United States.
Establishing the Akhil Autism Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to autism education, treatment, and research along with The Sensory Pathway Center in Dayton, New Jersey – a state-of-the-art facility helping families with neurodiverse children prosper. She has pioneered innovative approaches to empower individuals with autism.
She’s collaborated with figures such as Dr. Temple Grandin and Deepak Chopra and recently hosted a Neurodiversity Symposium that empowered the global neurodiverse community.