When he turned 25 in October last year, Chennai-based Prem Sankar launched his venture codewithprem – a business offering designing websites for small businesses and special events. This seemingly small step marked the culmination of the hard work put up by his entire family to ensure that the young man becomes more independent with each passing day, a big task for a person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The diagnosis came after several wrong ones for Prem at the age of five. His parents shifted base twice, first from Thoothukudi to Tiruchirapalli, and then to Chennai to ensure they could avail the best treatment and education for their child. They exposed him to several activities – movies, songs, rock climbing, computers, weaving, sports, chess – to assess his interests. Though he wouldn’t speak until spoken to, he began chanting shlokas and singing Tamil songs.
Prem got introduced to computers at the age of 11. At first, he got excited by the games that he could play on it, especially puzzles. He also started learning to type with his speed increasing over time to the extent that he could do data entry without mistakes by 15.
While the home environment was extremely supportive, Prem Sankar had to deal with academic “failures”, being labelled unemployable and a lot of bullying outside. Throughout the way, however, his parents and sister were his cheerleaders. His mother SS Mangai, who is also his partner in the venture, even got herself a Bachelor’s course in Special Education (B.Ed). This enabled her to better understand the ways to help her son as well as many younger parents of children with ASD.
He started learning coding in 2019 from HashHackCode where he met his mentor and current business partner Manu Sekar. He had fun with the new skills he picked up, making e-greeting cards and landing pages for family members and friends on special occasions. This is where the idea of the codewithprem came from.
Immediately after the three of them launched the business, they got three projects – one from a computer class Prem attended as a child, a sports academy he had joined and the arangetram of a friend. More projects are coming to them every few days, and most importantly Prem seems to have found a career that makes him happy.