The Story of Jiya Rai: How Autistic Girl Swam from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka to Raise Awareness (World Autism Awareness Day, the 2nd of April)

The 13-year old Jiya Rai from Mumbai recently made history by becoming the fastest and youngest woman swimmer in the world to cross the Palk Strait in just 13 hours and 10 minutes!  

But, what is more special about this young para swimmer is that she had Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD when she was just two years old. However, it could not stop her from becoming what she is today!  

At the same time, she also helped raise awareness about people with Autism and what they are capable of! 

Jiya did not let Autism define her

Once again, Jiya proved that Autism is not a disability and it should not be the only thing that defines you. Although the 2nd of April of every year is celebrated as World Autism Awareness Day, people are yet to be fully aware of ASD and how to help people with it.  

When Jiya was just a little over 2 years, she was diagnosed with ASD. After a few months, her doctor advised her to join a swimming session as a part of her therapy. It worked wonders for Jiya as she soon developed a passion for swimming.  

It is one of the many milestones she achieved in her swimming career till now. Daughter of an Indian Navy Officer, Jiya Rai brought laurels to India by covering a stretch of 29 km in record time. Director-General of Police, Tamil Nadu, C Sylendra Babu and a big crowd cheered for her and greeted her as she completed the feat with a new world record.  

She started the feat from Talaimannar in Sri Lanka to Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu. The sea route of the Bay of Bengal she covered is considered one of the toughest by swimmers worldwide as it is a tidal sea. While the first 3 hours were difficult for her to swim, she considered it one of her greatest achievements.  

The previous achievements of Jiya Rai

Besides her recent achievements, Jiya Rai has won a total of 24 Gold Medals and 1 Silver Medal in the Open Water Sea Swimming Championship at both National and State levels. She is also a recipient of ‘Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Purashkar 2022’, the highest honour a citizen under 18 years can get in India.  

The name of this ace swimmer is also recorded in the Asia Book of Records and India Book of Records. She was the first girl with Autism to swim 36 km from Worli Sea Link to Gateway of India in 8 hours 40 minutes (February 2021).  

Many of her firsts also include swimming from Arnala Fort to Vasai Fort (22 km in 7 hours 4 minutes) in January 2021. 

Do you know the similarities between Albert Einstein, Daryl Hannah, Anthony Hopkins, Charles Darwin, Michelangelo and Sir Isaac Newton? These famous people are believed to have Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD, just like Jiya Rai. Nonetheless, they changed the world for the better! 

What measures do you think are the best to raise awareness about Autism? Let us know in the section below! 

If you enjoyed reading this blog, we also suggest you read 5 Indian Biopics to Binge watch along with Family!

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