DR RADICA MAHASE
Sherri Anne Ramsarran is the mother of a ten-year-old boy, Lucian. Sherri Anne gave up a career of 15 years in various upper management positions to stay at home to care full-time for her son after he was diagnosed with autism.
Lucian currently attends Ad Astra Private School in Vistabella. He loves to play and he loves being in water. He loves his own space. He loves being around children and even though he doesn’t interact with them, it doesn’t mean that he is being rude – he wants to be around them.
Sherri Ann, like most other autism parents/caregivers, was a bit confused when Lucian was first diagnosed with autism. She did not know much about autism but at the same time, she did not have the time to feel angry, depressed or hurt, as she was more focused on what she needed to do to help her son. She did not look backwards – she focused on researching information and doing training sessions so that she could help Lucian.
Like most other parents and caregivers, her main challenges are financial ones.
According to Sherri Ann, “If you are not financially stable, you will not be able to give your child a fighting chance, to be able to be integrated into society. A perfect example – most children on the autism spectrum need occupational therapy, speech therapy and sometimes other therapies. They have to go to special-needs private school.
"My son he's non-verbal and he cannot read, so he cannot go to a public school. So if parents cannot pull out at least $7,000 or $8,000 a month to spend, just to look after your child with therapy, then that's it! So financially it's a real struggle. The fact that our society does not have anything in place in any area – from doctors to education, there is nothing in place for our kids – it really pains me to keep hearing ‘free education for all,’ and right now it is really a struggle.”
Sherri Anne has found ways to deal with her struggles.
“About two years ago, I said to myself that I need to stop worrying about what I cannot give my son and I need to figure out what I can give him. I felt that if my son was healthy, he will stand a fighting chance and so I learnt how to do certain things. Through YouTube, I learnt a lot of occupational therapy, speech therapy – anything that I could help my son with.
"I paid for one session with the various therapists and I learnt some things that I can do with my son. So I spent whatever money I had on keeping my son healthy – healthy food, natural supplements and so on. “
Like all other committed parents, she just wants her child to have a fighting chance, to be safe; to feel safe.
“I would like my son to become independent, to be able to handle himself.
"In order to do that, he needs to be able to go to school, to be able to play with other kids in a playground, to not be shunned by other kids because he's different. He needs to be able to go out in society, whether it’s a grocery and if he has a meltdown or he’s making weird noises, people should not be looking at him as if though he’s weird.
"I would like society to accept him wholly and I would like him to feel comfortable and safe when he's out there.”
Sherri Anne wants other parents to understand that each child is different.
“Don’t look at what other children are accomplishing and expect your child to do that. Your child might accomplish certain things that others might not accomplish.
"Focus on keeping your children happy. Really observe your children and do and give to them when they need, not what other people think they need. As a parent you spend the most time with your child, you understand your child the most and sometimes you have to forget society, forget what other people are saying, no matter who it is.
"It is also important to understand that stress level is different for each person but hang in there, don’t give up – if you have to give up for a day, that’s okay. Just pick up yourself again the next day and keep going.”
There is so much people can learn from autistic children.
“Lucian’s best character trait is his naivete. My son is ten years old and he sees everyone as the same. He does not discriminate. He does not understand what is racism. He doesn’t understand what it means to be a bully. All my son knows is that every time you see a child, each child is the same child and he treats them the same. He is always happy to be around them and his love and his happiness is genuine.
"I think that if our leaders in this world and adults on the whole would just take a little bit from them, just a little bit, to show genuine love and kindness, and to genuinely be happy, I think this world would be a better place.”
Dr Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T