Hi! I am Lavanya. Yes! That is my name and my identity on this planet. My son Surya did not respond to his name called at the age of fourteen months. That was what autism had done to him. It made him hyperactive and inattentive. My son did not know or understand the word that established his identity and how to respond to it. I remember calling his name many times a day: hoping that my love for him would make him look at me. My voice seemed to fall on little ears that seemed apparently deaf. Even after three months of therapy Surya still failed to respond. We did an ASSR or BERA test. His hearing results were normal. I was desperate and wanted a solution at any cost. I received a very unusual tip from another parent. She told me to call his name only when he is looking at me or walking towards me. She explained to me that he would first register the sound of his name and then register me saying it every time he approached. That is the only way he would eventually start responding to my voice and his name been called. I tried this for three weeks and the results were absolutely amazing. Surya had started turning his head and tracking my voice from any corner of the house.
The next challenge was to teach him that he has an identity and some things belonged to him. I remember sitting late at night and making twenty flash cards with his pictures and name. Next morning the cards were stuck on his mirror, bag, water bottle, cupboard, shoes and bed. I walked him around the house showing him the objects. During therapy the cards were stuck only on equipment used by him. The therapist walked around with him only allowing him to use his required equipment with his photos and name attached. After every activity Surya was shown his picture and name that was stuck on a big mirror. The concept of “I am” and this belongs to me was being drilled into his head. Slowly we started working on commands like come here, sit down and keep things inside the box or cupboard along with his name. First we established response to name call then object identification and finally the verb or action that was telling him what was expected of him. It took us over six months but with regular practice and persistence we achieved it. My son had shut his world to others and bringing him back into my world and teaching him who he was and what belonged to him was the first milestone in his journey. I could easily tell you that there was no looking back from then on but that would not true. Even today when there are too many distractions eleven year old Surya occasionally does not respond to his name. That is autism. For every progress you make there will be that one moment of challenge that will make you wonder “Where did all my effort go?”
But when I see the larger picture he knows that he is Surya and he knows his things all too well. He not only identifies them but refuses to share them too. In his little world and fascinating mind he understood “I, me and mine” very well. Our next challenge was to teach him to share. I am very happy when he responds not only to family but to others when called. I remember reading the quote “What’s in a name?”. Back then I would have said “nothing”. Today I would say a mother’s helpless tears, a therapist’s efforts, six months of guided hard work for mother and child, photos, alphabets and lots of prayers and hope. Yes! That is what went into the name “Surya”. For a special child the initial journey into a normal world, starts with establishing connection to the name which his parents lovingly gave him. So hold his hand and take him one step further by training him to respond promptly and correctly to his name. Remember, he will do it. love Lavanya Please remember to write and share your experiences, in the comment section.