After securing her spot in the India Book of Records, Asian Book of Records, and Limca Book of Records for the youngest and first special girl in the world to achieve this milestone, Mumbai-based Jiya Rai wins Shriver-Kennedy Student Achievement Award- 2023 for her performance in Open Water Swimming.
Presented by the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD) in the USA, Jiya received the award virtually at the award ceremony held at DADD’s annual conference in Clearwater, Florida on January 19.
The DADD is a special interested association with council for Exceptional Children, the largest international professional organisation in the world dedicated to supporting the need of the students with disabilities.
On December 29, Jiya swam as relay team for world's longest open water sea swimming relay covering a distance of 1100 kilometer. She was the youngest and only female participant in the team and ragister her name in Guinness Book of World Record.
The 14-year-old, who has autism is a daughter of Madan Rai, Master Chief at Arms II in Indian Navy recently crossed the Palk Strait -the sea channel connecting India and Sri Lanka in 13 hours and 10 minutes, covering the distance of 29 kilometers. She became the youngest and fastest female swimmer in the world to cross the Palk Strait.
Jiya Rai |
Her swimming record was appreciated by the Prime Minister of India on his Mann Ki Batt podcast. Jiya is also a recipient of Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar in 2022, a highest award of citizen below 18 years of age and a state award for Empowerment of Persons with Disability in 2021 from Uttar Pradesh government as a role model. She is also recipient of Stree Samman Award in 2021 from Maharashtra government.
Jia was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Delay in Speech at the age of two. Her parents got her into swimming based on her doctor’s observation that her repetitive knocking — a characteristic of her diagnosis — could be purposely applied in water sport as therapy.
“It was harsh to put her into water at the age of two, but I had to do that for her. Being a naval officer’s child, water is in her genes. Our entire working culture has everything to do with water and I trusted our infrastructure and let her go,” said Madan Rai and added that swimming requires training and discipline, which may be harder to teach to a child with autism.
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