I think the best way to celebrate Autism awareness and acceptance month is by listening to individuals on the Autism spectrum and understanding their story, their struggles and their strength that enables them to pursue inspite of all the difficulties. I believe that their family has a major role in play in this. Let’s get to know another such wonderful family – the family of Kartik Venugopal. Kartik is an amazing teenager on the Autism spectrum, who reminds his mom to have lunch on time, thinks of his sister as his best friend and helps younger kids in the school by looking after them. He has many talents, but his empathy and loving nature are the ones that I admire the most! So, without further delay, let’s start the interview by chatting with his mom – Simmi Vasu.
Q) Hi Simmi, Please share your autism journey with us…
I had never heard of “Autism” till Kartik was diagnosed with it. It all started when each and every milestone of Kartik was delayed and as laymen we did not know that it’s not normal to miss milestones. We checked with his paediatrician when he was not speaking even though he was 2.5 years old, from him too we got the answer that some children speak late.
It was really a bewildering situation when you see your child doing strange things like spinning wheels, lining up things, looking from the corner of his eyes or simply shaking a piece of paper continuously and even the so called experts did not have an answer.
We started his speech therapy as that is the most obvious thing we could see, till the age of 5.5 it continued with no progress nor any answers to the questions which haunted us.
Finally without telling the speech therapist we took him to Action for Autism (AFA), as when we searched the net his symptoms matched with autism , and there we finally got the diagnosis and our world was never the same.
Q) Simmi, you are also a special educator and I enjoy reading your posts on Children beyond bounds website. Please tell us more about it
Because my son missed the Early Intervention period ( 0 to 6 years) as the speech therapist never told us or encouraged us for any answers, I vowed to make myself an expert in Early Intervention because worldwide it’s known that the sooner the intervention starts, better are the chances of the child reaching at par with his peers.
That is why all my blogs are about developing the foundation skills, be it attention, auditory perceptions (listening skills), imitation etc. Once the foundation skills of any child is strong, rest all falls in place like a jigsaw puzzle.
I didn’t want any parent to go through what I have gone through, that’s how I started writing.
Q) Your advice for other Autism parents…
Start as early as possible, don’t get into cures and fads and experiment on your child, start interventions immediately. Accept your child and don’t get into denial mode. My experience as a therapist and as a parent has shown time and again that the sooner the parents accept their child’s diagnosis they are more at peace and are able to help their child more.
READ, Talk to experts in the field, Talk to other senior parents, know autism, know your child, what all your child is going through, parents can then always find solutions as well as come up with alternatives, when your child is going through a meltdown or a difficult behaviour issue.
Now, let’s meet the star of the interview – Kartik
Q) Hi Kartik, How old are you?
Hello, I am 14 years old.
Q) What are you studying Kartik?
I am in a special school Orane Kids. I have just appeared for my grade 5 National Open School Exams (NIOS).
Q) Tell us about your school – What do you study there? What activities you enjoy?
My school is a special school , I study English, EVS, Maths, All activities of daily living (ADL), cooking, grooming, computers etc.
Q) You practice yoga regularly, tell us more about it and how it has helped you?
Yes, I practice Yoga daily. My yoga teacher has taught me many Asanas and it has actually made me more flexible, increasing my muscle tone, improved my body posture etc. I enjoy doing yoga and Surya Namskar is one of my favourite.
Q) What are your hobbies Kartik?
I love to collect newspaper cuttings of advertisements, listening to music and singing along at times with it. I love watching Mr. Bean and Art Attack show on TV.
Q) How do you spend time with your friends?
My sister is my best friend and I have some friends in school. We play when our teachers guide us. I take care of the younger kids in school when they are not sitting and walking around.
Q) Who are you favourite actor/actress?
Alia Bhat and Deepika Padukone
Q) Favourite movie?
Dear Zindagi and Happy New Year and Yeh jawani hai Diwani
Q) What kind of music you like to listen to?
I listen to soft melodious numbers like “Tum se hi” from Jab we Met, “Re Kabira” from “ Yeh Jawani hai Diwani, “Bahaara” I Hate Love Story and there are many more.
Q) What is your favourite story Kartik?
Q) You are very close to your sister, Mythili. How do you spend time with her?
We go to the market together to buy things, I listen to songs with her and if there is anything interesting on TV I literally drag her to show it to her.
Now, let’s meet Kartik’s best friend – his sister Mythili
Q) What are you studying Mythili?
I just finished class 12th
Q) Would you like to share a few memories of growing up with Kartik?
My favourite memories with my brother would be when we have our dance parties, he usually never dances in front of anyone other than me, and when he makes me sing because I’m too shy to sing in front of anyone other than him. He brings out the child in me.
Q) Your advice to other Autism siblings…
There’s always something that you can learn from your sibling. Kartik has taught me how to be more patient, accepting and taught me how to love everyone because he cannot understand the differences between people from the maids that work in our house to the guy who washes our car, Kartik loves everyone equally. Also accept your sibling for whoever he or she is and be open to talking about it, because the more aware the people around you will be, the better it will be for your brother or sister.
Lovely message by Mythili! This family has shown us that for an Autistic child to blossom and flourish, he/she needs unconditional love and acceptance and in turn, they will teach you the meaning of true love and an opportunity to raise a beautiful soul! Getting to know Kartik has reinforced my belief that our children are here to shatter the myths of Autism – be it lack of empathy or others. God Bless You dear Kartik!
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