Today, let’s meet Shaunak Joshi, a nine year old on the Autism Spectrum. He is a budding chef, plays music, loves traveling and spending time with his adoring grandparents. As usual, we will start by chatting with his parents – Drs. Ashwini Joshi and Saurabh Joshi.
Q) Would you like to share your Autism journey with us…
I would like to quote Robert Frost
” Two roads diverged in the woods and I-I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference”
Our son Shaunak was always a very happy baby and then a toddler. He was born with CTEV deformity of both feet(club feet). Weekly plasters since he was 10 days old , Physiotherapy since the age of 3 months, two operations and yet he was strong! However our world was supposed to change further when we discovered that our sonny boy was on the Autism Spectrum Disorders! He was then 20 months old.
After the ASD diagnosis I did a parent training program at Ummeed, Mumbai. This helped me with the acceptance part. I met fellow parents and somehow it eased my worries. I became more confident and equipped to support my son. I did the Autism Intervention program at Ummeed too.
The initial part was very difficult as my husband had to be away for his super specialisation. But I had lot of support from my family.
I gave up my hope for a super- specialisation and concentrated on my son. I made meticulous notes of his play. I remember that he used to engage with me for hardly 5 minutes and then it increased to half an hour and now he is constantly ‘with me’.
Shaunak has been undergoing OT and Speech therapy since that time. Initially he had very few words and gestures. With the support of our Developmental Pediatrician,Therapists and his patience we have come a long way. From few words to being able to express his feelings, from a very fussy eater to someone who has a ‘new food day’ every week, from having meltdowns to being able express himself and using his ‘solutions’ , from having severe auditory hypersensitivity to being able to perform in his Annual concert, from being a loner to having friends for sleepovers, we have indeed come a long way.
The journey has been a with lots of ups and downs but Shaunak has been our joy. With his innocence he has sculpted every path we have taken since that time. His every milestone and ours as Parents have been times of celebrations. We are in a happy space.
Q) You are an active participant in many Autism awareness walks and other initiatives. How has the experience been?
With other fellow Mums we have conducted two workshops in Mumbai. The first one was about Acceptance. And the second one was about Play. These were by parents for parents. Me and my family ran for the Run for Autism initiative by FFA last year and we will be running this year too. I feel blessed to be in a unique position (I am an OBGYN) for guiding visiting Mums and increasing Autism awareness.
Q) Your advice to other Autism parents…
Acceptance is very important. Take your time to go through the whole process but don’t loose precious time in Doctor hopping. Early intervention is the best. Have fun with your child. The journey,though tough, becomes easier. Avoid non-evidence based therapies,you loose valuable time and money. Going to your Developmental Pediatrician every six months helps plan therapies, schooling and social aspects. One child on the Spectrum is one child, so don’t compare. There is a big community of Autism, so our kids are not going to be alone.
As parents of differently abled children,we need to take care of ourselves. We need breaks for ourselves so that we are healthy physically and mentally to support our kids.
Now, let’s meet the star of the interview – Shaunak.
Q) How old are you dear?
9 years old.
Q)Which school are you attending?
Aditya Birla Integrated school
Q) What is your favourite subject?
Q) What are the names of your close or best friends? How do you spend time with them?
Rohan,Shaurya and Achintya. I go to birthday parties and have a sleepover.
Q) Shaunak, your mom said you like Peppa Pig, what is your favourite game or video?
My favorite game is Temple Run and video is Peppa Pig
Q) What is your favourite video game? How often do you play?
I like Temple Run.
I play it in the afternoon when there is a holiday.
Q) You also love watching videos and books on vehicles, what is your favourite vehicle?
Q) You recently started cooking, what did you cook?
Mashed potato cutlets
Q) Yummy! How do you spend time with your grandparents?
I go to the Beach, play catch and throw (ball), make sand castles, play Hide and seek and Boggle with them
Q) Do you like going on vacations?
Q) What is your favourite or recent vacation?
Q) How do you spend time with your sister? What games do you play?
I like playing ‘blanket monster’ ,sing songs, and do ‘mi aalo’ (I am coming….) with Niva.
Shaunak, God Bless You dear. May all your dreams come true! With the loving support of your family, I am sure, you will have a great life. Getting to know the Joshi family, I have realized that the most critical component of raising a happy and confident Autistic child is a healthy family support. It reminds me of the quote :