Autism……In my 8 years of experience, this word has evoked varied responses from teachers, students, special educators and parents. From anxiety, hopelessness, fear, panic, apprehension, worry, nervousness, indifference, feeling lost to curiosity, acceptance, perseverance, confidence, pride, empathy, and compassion. This has been one of the more challenging conditions to work with because each child presents with such a different combination of behaviours and there is no standardized technique to work with all children. Each child has a different interest, different strength and the degree of social interaction, communication and behaviors can vary hugely.
Having said that, I am incredibly lucky and proud to have worked with students- one who had injurious behaviours and was incredibly talented in drawing so much so, that we wished there was a calligraphy subject that could have suited her. She was also a Special Olympics World Champion ice skater. Yet another who possesses a wacky unconventional sense of humor and whose first book of poems is about to be published. And another who was musically gifted and aspired to learn in the London College of Music. A child who paints and constructs mini models so effortlessly. Another who participated in a television reality singing show. My student who predicted delivery dates so uncannily accurately. And yet, the outward appearances can be so deceiving.
Very little is known by the public at large about autism and autistic individuals. Trivandrum is only at the nascent stage. But the good news is that, it can only grow from here. All the success stories (they may not be world-famous, but these are all success stories to me) have a common thread running which is: emotionally and mentally supported parents, a community that was educated, sensitive classmates and teachers, a good, structured, holistic program involving special education, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, supportive parents who accepted their child, systematic training program teaching skills starting at the instructional level, encouragement and development of strengths and sufficient resources.
The brain of an individual with autism is wired differently- if only we try to look into their world, see their perspective and try to help them in their preferred way, it can open doors to many possibilities, one even beyond our imagination.