DR RADICA MAHASE
It is often said that if you want to know how to treat a child with autism, look to their siblings, they will show you. Growing up with a sibling on the autism spectrum can bring many beautiful experiences as well as various challenges. This week I am sharing an article written by a brilliant young lady who was awarded an additional scholarship for mathematics, last month. She is also a facilitator at Rahul’s Clubhouse, an autism centre located in Marabella. Here is Sakshi’s article:
“My name is Sakshi Kushwaha and I am 19 years of age. I live with my family of five which includes my mother, father, and two elder brothers. My eldest brother, Dhruv is 23 years old and was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. As his younger sister, in my earlier years there wasn’t much I could have done to support my parents other than just existing peacefully and being understanding of his special needs. However, as time progressed, I’d like to think that I became increasingly more helpful within the household. My mother is a homemaker and so dedicates a lot of her time to us children. She has never shied away from any responsibilities and ensures that even with a special needs child, she still does her best with my other brother, Rishabh, and I.
"As a family, we often try to engage Dhruv in all festivities and events, being mindful of not putting him in a situation to be knowingly overstimulated. At times, his meltdowns may seem random to an outsider, but we know that there is often a specific reason for them. Therefore, we try our best to avoid putting him in these situations and in the case that a meltdown does happen, we all reflect on the event and look for the causation.
"Growing up with an elder autistic sibling may seem like it would have taken some adjusting to, but to me it was actually the norm since the first minute I was brought into this world. Sometimes, my brother would seem just like us; other times during his meltdowns, I’d just accept the situation for what it was and do my best not to cause any additional trouble. My parents are grateful for the opportunities given to my brother and as a family, our only wish for Dhruv is that he has a peaceful life where he is treated with the same respect that any other person would receive in society.
"I started volunteering at Support Autism T&T a couple of years ago. I heard of this NGO from many of my friends and teachers. At one point, I was given a school project to complete where we were to select our own area of research and do a study on it. Because of my brother and my interest in the learning more about autism, I chose to research the discrimination faced by autistic children in schools. Through this, I was thrusted into a world of information that even with my personal experience, I had never known before. With this in mind, when a friend informed me of an upcoming training session to volunteer at Support Autism T&T, I knew that it was inevitable for me to attend.
"Coming into this organisation was like a breath of fresh air, distracting me from all the negativity of unequal opportunities as this was not the case here. Interacting with autistic children on different ends of the spectrum was so fascinating to me since I was really only aware of my brother’s habits. They are all so unique and special in their own way and definitely deserve all opportunities in life. As a volunteer and more recently a facilitator, I was thankful to help them achieve this. The experiences I have made here are only topped by the relationships I have formed with fellow volunteers and facilitators and even the children.
"I would like to say to my peers, when preparing and deciding on a goal, please ensure that it is something you are positively passionate about and consider a holistic approach. This can be in your academic life, career wise, or even recreationally. Never settle for any path that may seem like the only option, but is in fact not. If there is a will, then there must certainly be a way and with the proper amount of effort, there will surely be some gain at the end. I think that by following this method, many of your personal goals will become clear and with determination and resilience, even the most difficult of goals can be closely met. If I were to add a goal to anyone’s list, I would definitely recommend volunteerism at any NGO that supports a cause that is near and dear to your heart. At the end of the day, there will definitely be a sense of self-fulfilment to motivate you to continue on another day.
"With proper goals aligned with my area of interest, I undoubtedly think that I will be able to have even the smallest of impacts in this world. In the future, I aspire to study medicine and become a medical doctor; making my family members proud as well as making a difference in patients' lives. The interpersonal skills and knowledge of certain ethical concerns that I have learnt through my volunteerism will definitely aid in this journey. My parents truly have been an inspiration to me in pursuing my goals and I am ever so grateful for them. The resilience and strength demonstrated in everyday situations amaze me and I can only hope to be half as amazing as they are. Support Autism TT and its wonderful members are not to be forgotten, for giving me the opportunity to give back to my community and to learn so much along the way.”
Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T