Today, 1 in 68 children across the world has autism spectrum disorders (ASD). According to a survey conducted in 2013, 10 million children in India have autism.
The prognosis of ASD is considered to be bleak. It is a heart-wrenching diagnosis for family members.
An Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Autism, is a neuro-developmental disorder. It causes impairment in communication and socialization, and is also responsible for behavioural issues and inability in affected individuals to connect with people around them, including family members.
The Story of Two Children with Autism
The Patels live in Pune and their son, Aahan,was diagnosed at the age of 5.
Aahan did not interact with others like his younger brother did; nor was he able to ‘connect’ with his parents or his brother. He attended regular school, but did not have any friends. His speech was also impaired.
One day, when Aahan was 8 years old, his mother, who thought her son had already left for school, happened to look out of the window. What she saw left her shocked: Aahan was still waiting for his school bus – three hours after it was supposed to have arrived. What’s worse is that he was not aware that the bus had not arrived and was not likely to do so either.
Vishal Srinivas, who lives with his family in Mumbai, was also diagnosed at the age of 5.
Initially, Vishal was able to read, write and speak coherently, but gradually regressed. He began to slowly losing his abilities and became increasingly hyperactive. The school couldn’t handle him anymore and asked his parents to admit him to a special school. This was the year 2000.
The Awe-Inspiring Journey of Their Improvement
Aahan is now in Class 10. He passed his Class 9 exams with an impressive 70% score.
Today, he goes out with his friends to coffee shops and travels independently, either cycling or hailing cabs and autos to his destinations. He is also aware of his surroundings and even received a certificate of achievement from his school.
While these may seem like minuscule, everyday occurrences for many, to those who know Aahan, they represent a remarkable transformation.
After going through behavioral issues and meltdowns, Vishal has now settled down and is now on his way becoming a masterchef! He can whip up lip-smacking delicacies effortlessly; his mother, Viji, even jokes that Vishal is a better cook than her!
Vishal also solves problems and deals with complex situations around him. He is calm and collected, a far cry from the boy he once was. His parents hope that one day, Vishal will own and run a restaurant, just like his grandfather.
How did both these young men beat the odds? There is a commonality: they have mothers who refused to give up.
When Aahan was diagnosed, the neurologist told his mother, Sweta, that he would never be like other children. Sweta stormed out of his clinic. But not before giving him an earful!
Viji, Vishal’s mother, was told the same thing by a therapist who worked with Vishal. But Viji continued, undaunted, for the sake of her son.
They say a mother’s prayers never go unanswered. These mothers prayed, yes, but they also wholeheartedly committed themselves to improve the lives of their children.
Qualities of an Empowered Mother
Here are six traits which were common in these, and all mothers, who have been the driving force behind the growth and development of their children with autism:
1. They took up the responsibility and turned things around for their children. They realized that they knew their children the best.
Both these moms had support from their husbands and families.
There is a bigger picture that we need to look at as well.
Autism is not a defect or abnormality; it is simply a differently wired brain. In the West, people with ASD are sought after for their detailed and specialized thinking. It’s time for people in India to start respecting people with ASD as well.