Life goes by in a flash.
When your autistic child is young, you spend all your time taking him from one therapist to another, dropping and picking him from school.
You go through agony when he has a meltdown on the way to school. Your heart cringes when a classmate bullies him and your sweet child cannot stand up to him.
You get flustered when the neighbor looks at him oddly. Days fly by. You are engrossed in living day by day.
Days turn into weeks and weeks into months. Finally years go by and your child stands before you – as a young adult.
One thought gets stronger and stronger as the days go by. “After me, what?”
It’s a valid question. Every parent needs to think about it. This question keeps me awake at nights too. But I’ve learned to redirect it.
I ask myself what exactly I want to achieve.
1. Independent living
2. Pursuing a meaningful career
3. Enjoying friendships and relationships
This shift takes me away from a fearful future I cannot control to a meaningful present which I can focus on.
The beauty is, the more you focus on these three things, the more you see them emerge in your life. Here is proof:
Since 2013, Viji and her family been working on Vishal’s independence. He walks a little ahead of them when we go for a walk.
“We want him to ‘go out alone’ eventually”, she said. For a walk or to run an errand. We took the first step towards this when we got the opportunity about ten days ago.
It was a usual working day morning. I realized that I had just enough milk for the breakfast coffee. Srinivas, my husband, said he would buy the milk and then leave for work. On a whim, I decided to send Vishal with dad and see if he could come back home on his own.
As Vishal got ready to leave with dad I told him – appa will buy milk from the shop (which is a few feet away from the end of the road we live on), you bring it back home while appa will go to work from there.
And that’s exactly what happened!
Srinivas handed the milk packets to Vishal. He bid him bye and watched till Vishal reached the end of the road. Then he left for work while Vishal walked back home alone, holding the bag, not just minding the vehicles (always a busy road) but also the sound of the vehicles (he’s hyper sensitive to sound). And the best part, he also handled the street dogs (he’s terrified of them). He walked confidently up the road, into the building (as I watched unbeknownst to him), climbed the stairs two floors, rang the bell, handed over the bag to me and beamed as I said, ‘thank you dear’.
A small step towards Independent Living, but a huge boost to confidence and morale – for Vishal and for us.. We have hope.
Until six months ago, Aahan and Arav would fight like cats and dogs, Sweta, their mother, explains. Aahan has autism and Arav is neurotypical. Both of them tried to involve Sweta. But she realized that for Aahan to become independent, she had to stay out, and let them sort things out themselves.
Today they’re happy to go to restaurants by themselves to sample different cuisines. The other day they finished their dinner and went to their room to ‘chat’. Sweta heard them chatting amicably for more than half an hour!
They enjoy each other’s company. How heartening to see this sibling relationship evolve! Yes, autistic people can enjoy beautiful relationships.
Mohit was 19, when I realized he was amazingly talented.
His painting came about accidentally. He was great at imitating. In fact he would imitate everything I did. I wanted him to engage in an activity that did not require imitation.
So we both painted our little cards. I put up a barrier between us so he couldn’t see what I painted! After some time, I looked at his painting. It was breathtaking!
That’s how his painting career began. He was part of an art show in Paris in 2012.
His work will be displayed at an exhibition in Delhi organized by Action for Autism.
His art work was well appreciated at a recent exhibition organized by the Forum for Autism.
People with autism can have meaningful, creative careers.
20-year-old Prasad trains with his dad everyday and has participated in several marathons.
It’s amazing to see his resilience and tenacity. Hear about it from his dad:
Following the footsteps of his dad and sister, he has taken up to running and is doing pretty well here too. [He] started off around 2014, has shown great promise, and is capable of scaling up. Despite the passage of time and the associated pains, he’s eager to wake up early and prepare himself for the run.
It’s common to see him ready at 5:30 in the morning for his runs. Over the last 2 years, he has participated in at least 6-7 marathons, pacing along with professional runners. His pace is in no way inferior than his co-runners. He can be seen practicing regularly on the roads of Chembur and Eastern Express Highway.
He has participated in runs organized by Awetism Run, Khushi Autism Causathon. Last year he participated in IDBI Federal run organized in Mumbai, Chembur Monsoon Run and very recently in Navi Mumbai Marathon. A little more push and he can be seen in a half marathon (which I believe shouldn’t take very long)/
Sanjeev and Renuka share a routine of making their evening drink together. He fills the electric kettle with water and puts two mugs on the table. Once the water boils, he makes his hot chocolate and she make makes instant coffee.
“The other day, I was busy attending to something else when it was time to make our drink”, she shared. “When I returned to the kitchen, I was pleasantly surprised to see Sanjeev had not only made his hot chocolate but had also made my coffee! That too, exactly like how I normally make.”
“For him to have done this spontaneously, just by observing my way of making my coffee is indeed huge.”
These inspiring stories got me thinking:
What does a child need for achieving success?
The answer lies in a supportive family which doesn’t give up.
It hasn’t been a cakewalk for any of the families mentioned above. But each rose to the challenge to make a difference.
You can do it too!
Shift your focus from worry to what you can do. Question each activity that your child participates in.
Ask yourself – Is this making him more independent? Is this helping him solidify his relationship with family members? Will this help him gain meaningful employment or set up a career?
If your answer is ‘yes’, go ahead and do it. If not utilize that time for something more meaningful.
Be hopeful and positive. Let go of what your child may have become. Go with the flow. He could be leading you to a possibility you have not envisioned.
April is Autism Awareness Month. Give your child the gift of acceptance. Give yourself the gift of awareness.
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