– Varada Ghadge
It was one of your boring, gloomy day; a bit too routine for Ira’s taste. She decided to go for an evening walk in the neighborhood park just to clear her head and get the gloom off her. It always cheered her up. Sporting her running gear, she reached the park and after some proper exercise, sat down on a park bench observing some kids playing a game of gully cricket.
There was one kid though, not at all interested in anything happening in his surroundings; had his mother trying to get him to play catch. In one such attempt, the ball somehow managed to reach the bench Ira was sitting on. The other kids and their oh-so-involved mothers seemed to avoid them, she had observed. She picked up the ball, went to the mother-son duo and handed them the ball. The mother thanked Ira, while the child was as disconnected as ever. During her conversation with the mother, she got to know that the child is a case of moderate autism and the society isn’t yet as receptive.
“He’s lost in his own world, it’s very difficult to get him to socialize even a little. He’s moody, doesn’t understand social cues, sometimes it’s hard to get him to comply”, she said with a deep sigh. “You should see him paint though, he’s almost like a professional at such a young age!” There was a sparkle in her eyes when she showed pictures of some of his paintings on her phone. “The kid isn’t normal, wouldn’t fit into the ordinary race of life, but he is not someone abnormal. He is just, a little different, my Golu.” She explained.
Ira greeted her with a sympathetic smile and decided to head home. The conversation had got her thinking. Being an introvert herself, she could understand not being able to socialize; and really, who decided what’s normal anyway! Just because most of the people share similar tendencies, doesn’t mean those who don’t, have to necessarily be labeled as anomalies. Her train of thought was disturbed when her mother called out her name. Ira hadn’t even realized she had reached home!
She then googled about autism and found that ‘autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors. Because of the range of symptoms, this condition is now called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The children have difficulty understanding social cues and at verbal communication. Though many might be normal or even superior intellectually; around a third might be intellectually disabled. Certain medical and mental health issues like Gastrointestinal problems, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, phobias may accompany. Early recognition, speech and behavioral therapy, medical therapy if needed can help them lead a relatively independent and fulfilling life.’
This got Ira thinking again, ‘How easily we, as a society, tend to stigmatize things we know so little about. To the extent of avoiding those who are already suffering! Autism is not the end; autistic children just require some extra attention and patience from our side, that combined with appropriate timely treatment, can certainly help a great deal!’
She was already looking forward to meeting and getting to know Golu some more again the next day!