DR RADICA MAHASE
As we begin the month of May, and get ready to celebrate mothers, I am sharing an article written by one very proud mother of an autistic boy, in her own words.
"My name is Sharlene Persad-Sankar and I am the proud mother of my superstar, Simran. I come from a very small, close-knit family. My son’s name is Simran Enrique Sankar. He is seven years old and he is my only child. Finding out I was pregnant was a miracle come true. I had difficulty getting pregnant for more than ten years and had almost given up hope of becoming a mother. My pregnancy was filled with love and support from my family and all we wanted was a healthy happy child.
When Simran was born, I decided to give up a job that I loved and had been doing since I was 17 years old, to become a stay-at-home mother and wife. At the time, we knew that it would be a huge financial and mental sacrifice but thought it would be temporary and I could start back working when he started school. However, I realise the universe had other plans for me and our superstar.
In the first two years, Simran grew physically, but slowly we started to notice words like mama and dada were not coming. He would understand what he was being told. He was always energetic, never sitting still, and would not make eye contact. My sister, a nurse, advised me to take him to a developmental paediatrician. It took eight months to get an appointment – eight months of not knowing what was going on with my baby and if anything could be done.
We saw the paediatrician and our world changed! I was told that he has autism spectrum disorder that was incurable, and there was no way of telling how badly it would affect him. All we knew is that the hope and dreams we had for our baby were gone. At first it was very hard for me and my family. I started to question myself and ask what I did wrong and worry about his future and what would happen because we knew little about ASD and did not know where to turn to get help.
Once we looked at him, we knew we needed to try. We put our faith in God and started to Google and read everything we could on ASD and what could be done to help. The more we learnt, the stronger we became, and the more we started to focus on Simran and to find ways to help him. We had to learn his strength and weakness and build on both. We had to learn new ways of teaching him and doing things at his pace. Simran is such a brilliant, amazing, kind, gentle, loving child and anyone who knows him would tell me he is always smiling. He is a water baby who loves to go to the beach; he loves learning new things on the tablet and phone. At first there were a lot of shattered screens and devices, usually when he had meltdowns. He even went through a phase of washing them but thankfully he’s over that now.
I wanted him to have as normal a life as possible. I enrolled him in preschool as I wanted him to socialise. He is non-verbal and I found out that he was often kept apart from the other children and not receiving the care and attention he deserved and needed. The isolation that he was experiencing broke my heart. After contacting two public schools and being told that they were not able to take my child I was at my wit’s end – how were we going to get him the help he needed to continue growing and developing? After a lot of searching, we found Rahul's Clubhouse last year, which offered one-on-one sessions and also a Kids Club where our kids come together and learn to play and socialise. This has made such a huge impact on Simran’s progress and development – he says a lot more words, follows simple instructions, sits for longer and pays attention.
My Simran has a high IQ and from all the progress he has made we know that that he can continue to develop. He just needs the right help to bloom but it is a constant struggle to find this. I have to look at expensive private schools. These come at a huge financial cost and can be even more challenging when on a single parent income. But when it comes to my son, I would always go above and beyond for him! I also constantly worry about what would happen to him if my husband and I were suddenly no longer here, or able to look after him or able to fight to get him the things he needs.
I would love to see my child accepted by everyone and never be judged or taken advantage of. I have also learned so much from him and will continue to have him teach me and guide me into learning his way. Parents, never give up on your child and ask for help where needed. Build yourself up to have the patience needed. Find support because at times it can be so stressful and emotional. All the tantrums and sleepless nights and sometimes not understanding them can make us feel that we are not doing anything right and we question ourselves. At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves, suppose our superheroes are the normal ones and we are the different ones on earth?
I thank God for blessing me with my little prince each and every day. I consider myself one of the chosen mothers because He knew I could take care of this angel on earth, and would not give him up for the world. Thank you, Simran, for choosing me to be your mother.”
Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T