By Jaya Pandey
Autism awareness day is on April 2 and I am thinking what really this means to many. A family with a son on spectrum or people around us. I have been talking and writing about it for few years and I still struggle to explain what Autism really is.
According to Autism Society it “affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.” It is spectrum which means no two kids are similar. That makes it ever more difficult to define. As of 2014, one in 68 children has Autism.
As a mom to a 17-year old son who has trouble explaining and understanding his and other’s emotions, reading the facial expression and very difficult to come out of his own perception of incidents, events and emotions, I am trying to explain to the world how isolating this could be.
My son, Anand, was 3 and half when his preschool teacher noticed his not so social behavior. A mother in me never felt anything different but when I look back now I wonder about those red flags. But again, it was another time. He was eight when we finally got the ASD (Autism Spectrum disorder) diagnosis.
For years, I have struggled with what ifs and I still wonder if I am working hard enough to get resources for him. That is why I made Autism Awareness and acceptance my mission.
Today I go to various universities, community events and workshops and conference to talk about my experience and urge people to look around them and help the families with special need kids. This is the reason I wear blue saree and write and talk about our life.
For last few months I have been actively building a community of Indian moms with special need kids. We meet for small lunches and once a month for a big dinner. Moms from all over the state drive to meet other moms who get them without even knowing them. They find the best friends in strangers and leave with a promise to help each other and do better for their kids.
They help each other in navigating the school system, finding a therapist, a doctor, a suggestion for behaviour, a better option for medicine or food change, whatever worked or not for their kids. They are coming together to form a social group for their children and a community for themselves. When they meet, they meet an old friend who knows everything about them without even meeting them before.
I am so proud of each of them who come together to help, to uplift others, to help the new moms and to learn from older moms. Parenting is not easy for anyone, leave aside special needs children but these moms are leaving aside their trouble and helping others to navigate this world. They are making sure the new moms don’t go through the same hardship they did once.
Today I ask you to open your world to these families. When you see, someone having hard time in grocery store, family get together or in any line, offer a helping hand. A kid, you think is throwing tantrum, might be having a meltdown due to sensory overload or cannot comprehend what is going around him. You don’t know what they are going through. So please be gentle and less judgmental. You will make this world a better place.
For more about the group, please click on the link below:
If you have kids with special need and would like to meet other Indian moms, please join this group. Their next meeting is on April 21 at 6:30 pm at “Mayuri Indian Cuisine” restaurant located at 5 Nagog Park in Acton, MA. Please RSVP Jaya Pandey – MomLovesAnand@gmail.com.
(Ms. Pandey lives in Franklin with her husband and two sons: Ajey 20 and Anand 17. Her younger son has Autism.)