May Special Needs Parents find HOPE. The following may make parents of neurotypical children want to know more about their neighbours, cousins,friends or colleagues who have Special Needs Children.
I am SHALINI SINHA. Homemaker, non-practising Special Educator, mother, friend, philosopher, guide to children.
INTRODUCING MY BETTER HALF ..
My husband ABHISHEK works with a PSU and is an OCCASIONAL ARTIST when he finds the time to put brush to canvas.
MY CHILDREN …
The younger- Aman- is twelve years going on thirteen, a budding footballer and a student of 8th standard. The elder, Aneesh, is now 19 years old, completing his school, a compulsive painter and cartoonist.
He also HAPPENS to be on the autistic spectrum.
OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS …
Having a child on the autistic spectrum means that the family definitely benefits from a support system. Both my husband and I are fortunate in having many family members in and around Delhi, where we are settled. Our huge pool of extended family provides the much needed landing space when we need to unwind from the stresses and toils of our hectic day to day life. Thus all four of us decompress over weekends in family get-together, or, for variety, stand-alone outings to various malls or movies. It helps that both children love, not only the family get togethers but also hanging out at malls/ watching movies.
MY SPECIAL CHILD IS TRULY SPECIAL
All children are special to their families. Some children may need more attention and it is in the NATURE of parents to strive to meet the needs of their child – whether the NEEDS be “SPECIAL” or “TYPICAL”. The family adjusts to accommodate the needs of every child.
THOUGH ANEESH IS ON THE SPECTRUM, HE IS NOT DEFINED BY HIS AUTISM. We have always tried to have the same expectations of him as we would have of any neurotypical child. This puts an additional responsibility on us to ensure that he is able to overcome the disadvantages imposed on him.
We were fortunate in having a diagnosis at a very early age when Aneesh had just completed two and a half years. We immediately started an intensive (18 hour a day) Sensory Integration Therapy, Occupational therapy and continuous engagement in , one on one interaction enabled us to get him past the typical spectrum issues of hyperactivity and hypersensitivity to stimuli such as sound, touch, and taste. Firm “tough love” strategies helped in curbing undesirable behaviours such as head banging. Similarly, repeated demonstration of simple requests "papa paani de" and firm refusal to respond to gestural communication helped in making him realise that sounds have a meaning and can be used as a medium of communication.
Do not make the mistake of thinking, it was easy. It is not easy to ignore your child when he is thirsty and repeatedly pulling your hands towards a bottle, forcing him to verbally express himself. Nor is it easy to ignore your child when he is hitting his head on something. But let me assure you of one thing: loving your child sometimes means suppressing your emotions and being firm, in the interests of long term benefits.
A doctor once told us seventeen years ago that my son would never talk and would never call me “ma”.
Today, my son is active on Facebook, whatsapp, rides a bicycle, can swim, skates, has exhibited and sold his art, does live cartooning at gatherings and many other things children of his age do every day… I am grateful to that doctor who forced us to prove him wrong.
Yes, my son still has some issues with language, academics and socialising, which we attend to on a daily and continuous basis. It is a work in progress, and it is hectic and physically and emotionally taxing. Sometimes we feel as if we are on a runaway train, rushing at breakneck speed!
FAMILY SUPPORT …
This is where the role of a support system (whether friends or family) becomes important. As I mentioned above, we have been fortunate in having a large extended family, which helps us to de stress. Growing your support network is very important for Special Parents. Supportive family members help children with Special Needs learn the social cues and appropriate behaviour in a non-judgemental environment. This also helps parents to lay down the load for a few hours.
ANEESH THE CARTOONIST …
Aneesh started expressing himself through his drawings at a very young age. By the time he was eight years old he was converting school book stories into recognizable and understandable picture books. We ensured that he always had plenty of paper and pencils so that he could freely draw as per his emotions.
Though he also paints and sketches, he has currently settled on cartoons as his preferred medium of expression and loves to do live cartooning of people at gatherings.
Thus, the Times Cartoonist Hunt, when we saw the ad, it appeared to be a good forum for him to participate in.
Dear all click on the link below... Search Abhishek Sinha in Cartoonist Name
ask your friends and family to do the same
Apart from it encouraging him, we would also like to show people through his participation that children like Aneesh are aware of the world and given a supportive environment, can be highly contributing members of society.
WHAT DO I HAVE TO SAY TO A MOTHER WHO HAS JUST COME TO KNOW THAT HER CHILD IS A SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD?
From my experience, I would like to make the following suggestions to other parents of young children with special needs –
1) Most critical: Do not deny a problem.
The sooner we accept and acknowledge a difficulty our child is facing, the sooner we can start taking steps to address it.
2)The earlier you start working on the issues, the more you can teach your child.
Delay in addressing issues only makes the child lose valuable time and the early learning window.
3) Be sensitive to your child but be firm when it is required.
There are times when it benefits the child more in the long term for you to be firm.
4) Grow a support system of friends / family.
5) Be an advocate for inclusion in society.
6) Pace yourself.
Working with your child is a long-term effort. Don’t burn yourself out!
Best wishes to all parents out there! We are with you!