‘Has it been easy? No. Has it been worthwhile? Hell, yes’
When Aaditya was 3, I noticed that he didn’t speak much. He was still only saying a few basic words, like ‘Amma’ and ‘Bye’. We assumed he was a later starter. But then teachers at his playschool started complaining that he was aloof. We began to notice how irritable he got at family gatherings.
We saw a doctor and got a diagnosis. It was autism spectrum disorder. First came shock, then denial. We asked, why us? It was the only thing I could think about. I would break down regularly thinking of his future. I quit my job with a PR company to be there for him.
I wouldn’t use the word autism; I wouldn’t let anyone else use it.
Right after the diagnosis, we went on a family vacation to Singapore. It was a nightmare. The flight was delayed and Aaditya was pushing every trolley in sight round and round. I couldn’t get him to stop.
On board, he was cranky and grabbing at a co-passenger’s food. I became distraught. I heard someone say ‘Indian mothers… always spoiling their kids’. I felt like I was failing to handle my child.
The more I read about autism and spoke to other parents, the more I realised how important it would be for me to accept my son as he was. We began using therapies and support groups to find a way forward. We got family and friends involved, which helped normalise the situation for him and for us.
By the time he was seven, I could start my own PR business while working from home.
When Aaditya was 10, we were set to travel to Canada, just the two of us. I was so worried it would be a repeat of the Singapore trip, but the 24-hour flight went smoothly. We had grown to understand each other. He had a loose tooth that was annoying him, but he was being very patient about it. Just before immigration, I helped him pull it out and as we walked up to the officer, he called us a ‘brave son and a very brave mother’. That made my day.
Aaditya is 13 now, and teenage has brought with it a new set of problems. He wants to be more independent and have his own space and privacy, which are areas we are learning to navigate. There are times when I want to help him out with daily chores and he rolls his eyes and says I’m being intrusive. Honestly, I think it’s just hard for me to let go of the instincts I formed.
We have come a long way. Has it been easy? No. Has it been worthwhile? Hell, yes. I look forward to more experiences together, and to the next curve ball life will throw our way.
— As told to Anesha George