Today, allow me to introduce you to Roshnee Tewari, a multifaceted star on the autism spectrum. She has developed by leaps and bounds since her autism diagnosis. She can do embroidery, cook, loves to do stage shows, sings well, does yoga and loves to listen to songs!! Roshnee’s success secret is a rock solid family support and great therapists. Let’s start by talking to her mother Dr. Astha Mishra.
Q) Tell us about the initial years of your autism journey.
When Roshnee was about 8 to 10 months old, I sensed that there was something different about this child. ( I have an older daughter-4 years older than Roshnee). She was no trouble at all. No demands for attention. Feed as and when you want .No unnecessary crying. When I left for work no tantrums, no pleasure to see me come back. When learning to walk – no fear of falling, no crying when she did fall. At about 1 year she started babbling – all the time but no words. She wouldn’t stop babbling. It was as if she was trying to block out something with all the constant sound. As if she was trying to block out the world. Long ago, when I was a student in class 8 or 9 I had read an article in Readers Digest written by a father about his daughter who had autism. Some how my thoughts kept going back to that article. When she was admitted to a play school, the principal called me about 2 weeks later and told me that there was something missing here. It was as if my suspicions were confirmed. It wasn’t difficult for me to accept her autism as I had already known for almost a year that something was missing .I read up on it in some medical journals and then I didn’t waste any more time going to neurologists– getting MRIs or EEG’s. I started taking her for intervention. My family was still not accepting though they were not opposing me either. It was a very hectic 6 months. Working at my job, my practice, come home take Roshnee for intervention and then working with her at home. As a result my elder daughter —Who was then about 6 years old started feeling neglected – She started thumb sucking and bed wetting.
It was time to minimize my losses. There was no point in handicapping my elder daughter. I couldn’t stop working as the income was needed to run the family. So I backed off a bit on Roshnee’s intervention. And then thankfully my parents stepped in. They took charge of Roshnee. My father and mother have been like rocks standing by me and my girls. Roshnee is more their achievement than mine. Taking her for training, doing it at home, finding trainers, teachers planning goals has been done in consultation with all of us –but the hard work has been theirs.
Q) You had amazing support system! I understand you followed ABA for Roshnee, have you tried any other therapies?
No we have not tried anything else. When the reason for something is not known there are many therapies available and that means all are of dubious value. Follow any. For example -If you have malaria – you take antimalarials – no questions about that. Cause is known ,therapy is known. In autism cause is not known so specific therapy is also not known And that leaves the ground open for exploitation.
Q) What advances did Roshnee make from ABA over the years?
We have kept our targets very practical. At the outset we decided that one doesn’t need to know advanced physics to survive – but one needs to be able to feed, dress and be toilet trained to survive. Having an older normal child also coloured our thoughts maybe. We knew that she is there to provide support. So we targeted on making Roshnee as capable within the house as possible. Which today, to a large extent, she is.
Roshnee had many behavioural issues. With ABA most of them have been brought down to acceptable level.
Q) That’s great! Your advice for other autism parents?
Advice – only one. With children with autism parents get so focused on training and teaching they forget to enjoy their child. Love your child – dance with him/her – his/her crazy dance, Laugh with him/her even if there is no reason to laugh. Be proud of him/her – take him everywhere. Child has a tantrum, fine – no problem. Never wonder what others will think . If they know you, your child’s meltdown will not change their opinion of you and if their opinion changes they are not worth knowing. And if they don’t know you, how does their opinion matter?
Well said Dr. Astha. Now let’s talk with Roshnee.
How old are you Roshnee?
I am 15 years old
Which school/centre are you going?
I am going to Amrit Somani Memorial Centre.
You have performed in many stage shows, do you love performing on stage?
That’s great Roshnee! You like cooking too, what can you prepare?
I can make tea, coffee, Roti, I can saute subji.
You can recite many prayers in Sanskrit, who taught you?
Nanu and Nani.
When do you practice Yoga Roshnee?
After I come from the Centre.
Tell us about your hobbies Roshnee.
Singing, cooking , listening music, house work, iPad.
Roshnee has an older sister, Aditi Tewari, let’s hear it from her.
I am 4 years elder to Roshnee. As a child, I always wanted a younger sister and was ecstatic when Roshnee was born. I was a very protective and possessive elder sister, a facet of me which only intensified when Roshnee’s autism was discovered. When Roshnee’s autism was first discovered, it was a very overwhelming experience for my mother and that spilled over into my life as I received very little time and attention from her. This led to a few anxiety disorders and jealousy for Roshnee. However, even then I loved her fiercely and things went back to normal as we adapted to Roshnee’s autism as a family and mom had time for me again. Having an autistic sibling is like having Peter Pan as a sibling, a child who will never grow up. I know I’ll never advise her on boyfriends or help her with her homework or take her dress shopping for her Fresher’s Party. We’ll never sit together and giggle over silly secrets as sisters do. But I’ll always have a child to come home to. Roshnee teaches me to relax and find joy in simple things and helps me forget everything bothering me. Also, she’s my rock and gives me a reason to hang on and fight; not for myself but for her, because she is counting on me to not abandon her. I once ( when I was 10/11 years old) went through a depressive, one could even say suicidal, period. What held me back from acting on my dark thoughts was the knowledge that I had to stay alive to take care of her. Over time, I have come to view Roshnee more as a daughter than a sister. she’s MINE and I love her more than I love myself.
Thank you Aditi for sharing your thoughts with us. You are an ideal sibling, God Bless You and Roshnee and may all your dreams come true!
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