Like any other expectant mother she too had great expectations from her second issue, because it was conceived after some planning and speculation than her first-born . She did everything for the expedient of the little one. Be it doing light yoga or be it reading scriptures; be it drinking warm milk with a dash of saffron (to enhance the child's skin tone, as per her mother-in-law's advice ) or be it talking and singing to her unborn child. So infectious was her exuberance and enthusiasm that from time to time I could not but call on her, to discuss about the foetal development .
"Today it kicked me for the umpteenth time. This little brat is obviously in great hurry to see the light of the world. Or is it mistaking my poor womb to be a soccer stadium?" She would joke.
That was six years back.
Today she is the mother of an autistic child.
She realised her baby was autistic when even at the tenth month the infant did not respond to the love and affection showered on her .She would simply look at them blankly and blink. First they consulted an expert ophthalmologist to verify if it was an eye disorder. Nothing was erroneous. The child would simpy NOT react to either the mother or the father's touch. This was a heart-rending and a nerve wrecking phase. But in due course of time, my friend realised that it was nothing compared to what was ahead of them in future.
She would ask me, "Why me? Did I do something very terrible to deserve this?"
I would console her, "God chose you above us because He knew that , you and only you have the patience, resilience and courage to fulfil this daunting task of nurturing your sweet little one . We lack all that it needs to upbring a special child. We are perhaps worthless in His eyes, because if we can proudly call ourselves mothers , tackling our pretty little darlings ( and feeling what great jobs we were doing , when actually, all we do is Much Ado About Nothing ! ), I have no problem in calling you a supermother."
And indeed she is one. Besides looking after her two daughters and family, she has got into a school for autistic children.In this way she perceives and understands her child better . Here, she handles fifty more such children, fathoming to know more about this brain development disorder. Nowadays she even handles ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder ) cases with a few children who study at her daughter's school.
Today she is able to tell me that autism has :
*no clear unifying mechanism
*no study focussing on midlife
*no chance of independent living
Autism is a communication disorder characterised by a child's inability to relate to the outside world. Such children are hypersensitive to external environmental stimuli. They love to remain withdrawn in their own world which is accessible only to them.
She now knows how to tackle her. She does it by :
*being consistent in discipline
*making frequent and mandatory eye-contacts
*doing her work in a routine or fixed schedule
*touching her frequently(earlier she was aversive to touch)
*calling out her name everytime she talks to her
*tries not to react to her tantrums irritably
Despite such bleak prospects she has indulged in the studies of this dysfunction which begins during the embryonic stages of development.
" Most children are undisciplined, rude ,erratic and very unpredictable.Acquiring language before age six and having an I.Q. above 50, plus having a marketable skill - all predict better outcomes ...." She tells me.
Her daughter fortunately falls in this category, to her and my great relief !
When I asked her one day what gives her so much enthusiasm even in the face of such adversity to slog on, she replied to me with a laid-back yet serene tone - "I have simply learned what I can do, and what I cannot do. With my elder daughter I can share a joke or share an emotion. And with my younger one I cannot share a joke or an emotion. With my elder daughter I can be angry, with my younger one I can't" .
Her words reminded me of Jack Canfield when he quoted Roger Crawford - who is a certified tennis player and professor of the United States Professional Tennis Association having everything except two hands and a leg ! - in his article, ' Everybody can do something ' :
" The only difference between you and me is that you can see my handicap, but I can't see yours. We all have them...I've learned that I can't play the piano or eat with chopsticks like you. But what I can do is play with my heart and soul."