It was World Autism Awareness Week from the 28th March – 2nd of April. The April 2nd being world Autism awareness day, our contributor, Vantika Singh, tells us her story of what does it mean to raise a child with special needs.
I would have never imagined that seeing a heartbeat on my ultrasound screen would be the most remarkable moment of my life. That tiny dot was the life growing inside me and I got automatically promoted to ‘Motherhood’. Being a mother has changed my life drastically! Over the years, I have experienced the different sides of it. Some days are effortless and some are really stressful but what grows on you is patience, hope, faith and the unconditional love for your child. Advay, my four-year-old son, was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) at the age of three. It was a difficult time for me to accept and realize what this condition meant and how big the impact would be on my psyche and lifestyle.
It was a harrowing experience when my son started regressing at the age of two and started losing his words and speech. He would not respond to his name and preferred to play alone. I knew something was odd but having no prior knowledge about ASD, I was clueless and could not relate to his behaviour. I googled the symptoms and saw an array of articles filled with the most horrid diseases unfold in front of me. Soon, the doctors advised me for a thorough check-up and after 1.5 years of gruelling wait, the diagnosis was confirmed.
It was disheartening but I accepted the challenges that my child was facing and it was the ‘new normal’ for me. I was more than willing to be his strongest support and understand how he views the world rather than me wanting him to see the world through my eyes.
Unlike the neurotypical kids, autistic children have different filters to view the world and we as parents should work towards making them feel accepted so that they try their best to coexist with the rest of us. I feel that society lacks the awareness about autism and the empathy towards parents who face the mammoth task of dealing with the complex situation which offers no time for them to relax.
On the other hand, I find myself lucky to be in a country which has a strong and steady support system for autistic kids. In fact, I was glad to learn about a special school in Urdorf which teaches and trains them to be more independent and responsive towards their day-to-day activities. It also has an Autism Advisory Cell which provides a free consultation to kids and adults facing this condition.
Acceptance and Support
I strongly urge the parents who face a similar situation to accept your child’s condition with an open heart. It was important for me to respond to my child’s needs and relate to his special little world that he depends on. The earlier the intervention, the greater the possibility for your child to progress and be better in adapting to the surroundings around him.
There are many ways by which one can offer support to their child facing ASD. To develop communication in any form is a major goal that needs to be accomplished besides the other developmental delays that the child faces.
Speech therapy or Logopädie is sponsored by the State of Zurich once your child is diagnosed with the disorder.
Advay’s Logopädin Julia Winzenried points out why this therapy is so essential for the autistic kids, “Our primary goal is to form an association between the autistic children and their favourite toy, activity, snack etc. This really helps them to learn to communicate and that is why it is worth the effort. These children must understand a way to express what is going on in their minds that the other people fail to understand. They can express themselves and communicate with the help of pictures, body signs or words. If they learn this, it enhances their self-confidence and the parents feel positive too.” To know further about this therapy, Julia can be contacted here.
We were also made aware of ABA Therapy and FIAS in Basel. We opted for FIAS – Frühintervention bei autistischen Störungen. FIAS provides an intensive training for three weeks to the entire family- the autistic child and the respective parents. It focuses on making the child more independent and offers a hands-on training for the parents to help them support and be more responsive to the changing needs and temperament of their child.
The state also sponsors Play Therapy, which enables the child to develop better motor skills, learn music, art and crafts and much more. Ergotherapy is another option that one can consider making the child achieve independence in all aspects of his/her life. It enhances a child’s self-help skills, such as self-feeding, grooming and dressing along with enhancing sensory integration skills. There is a help centre for kids, the Kinderpraxis in every neighbourhood which provides these services for a special needs child.
Therefore, the take away from my experience has been to chin up, accept and work towards the disabilities of your child as early as possible. As a result, I have seen the bond with my son grow stronger, healthier and happier with each passing day.
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
~ Mahatma Gandhi.
About the author
Vantika Singh is a proud mother of a 4-year-old boy. She started her career as a journalist in Print Media for a leading Corporate Magazine in New Delhi. She switched her base to Mumbai as the Communications Head at Deloitte Consulting India Pvt. Ltd. Vantika is currently based in Zurich. She has recently started her own event company with a friend – Magic Dots Events.