2nd April is marked as Autism Awareness Day worldwide.
For some parents, the day is a rude reminder of a life that could have been. While for others, it’s just a day that says be grateful, for it could have been much worse.
Nevertheless, both sets of parents wish on this day for a world that understands and accepts their children as they are. To embrace them with their differences, understand their limitations and include them in their lives.
Life wouldn’t be this tough if there were so many questions people asked constantly about Autism.
And that process can start when children get to learn about the differences in each other from the very beginning. When they start to appreciate and empathize with those who are not like them. When they make space in their worlds for children in the autism spectrum.
So how about this World Autism Awareness Day, you tell your child what autism is all about.
I take pride in saying that every child that my son interacts with understands that he is different and I give the credit of this brilliant job to the parents who have made the effort in raising their children sensitively.
They take the initiative of talking to him, including him in their games. They don’t get rattled with his lack of speech, they are patient around him and also give him the space he needs .
Their questions were always innocent but we found answers together.
Listed here are the most common questions kids ask about my son Madhav, who is in the Autism spectrum.
I have tried to answer them in a manner that they understand. Maybe you can use them as pointers.
Why is Madhav different from other children?
All children are different from one another. One is tall, the other is short. Some wear glasses, some don’t. Some are a little thin, some are healthier. Some have long hair, some have short hair.
While these are differences you can see, there are some differences you can’t see as they exist in the brain.
Everyone’s brain is like a computer that works differently. Sometimes the brain is like puzzle pieces that are not yet joined so what you learn easily, someone learns a little later in life.
Why doesn’t Madhav talk like me?
Madhav is just a little shy. He wants to be included but doesn’t know how. So you can be the leader and make him follow you. Ask him to bowl, or bat, or run with you, or play games- but you take the lead.
And if doesn’t want to play then leave him for sometime and he will come back.
And when you speak to him in long sentences, he gets confused as his brain’s computer cannot understand so many words. So speak to him in two words and he will respond.
Why does Madhav scream or shout or repeat words?
What do you do when someone is not listening to you? You call them and ask for their attention. But with children who cannot speak like you, they make noises to get your attention.
You can nicely ask them to stop screaming and tell them you are listening. You can even teach them new words.
Why doesn’t Madhav share his toys with me?
Kids like Madhav don’t share their toys sometimes because they think someone will take their things away and not return. They do not trust easily. So, for them to share their toys, you have to be friends with them first. Once you are friends, they can share everything.
Why is Madhav not allowed to eat chocolate, chips or ice cream?
Some children are allergic to some types of food. They get rashes or fever.
Some children, like Madhav, may not get a rash or fever but they have problems sleeping. And lack of sleep makes them run around and be more naughty.
Sometimes they can’t even do potty properly. Which is why, we don’t give them too many chocolates and chips. You can always have these things later, so while you are with them have something that you can all share.
The questions are really simple and the answers, even simpler. I wish life was that easy too. But if we all make just a little effort we can surely raise a society that is no just sensitive but also inclusive.
Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
(Once a news anchor, now a full time mom. Foodie, avid reader, film buff, and erratic blogger, Mugdha Kalra writes about living with a nonconformist.)