Imagine you’ve booked a flight to Italy, and have been planning the best vacation there. You’re pumped to see the Colosseum, eat pizza near the Pantheon and have a picnic under the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Your built-up excitement bubbles through on your plane journey there where you just cannot wait to land and explore the country you’ve been dreaming of for months. However, when you land, you’re informed it’s not Italy but the Netherlands you’re in. At first, you’re confused and lost as to why you’re in a completely different place. You may even get angry and demand to be flown to Italy, but it never happens. Your dream to see Italy is crushed as you find yourself stuck in a less-flashy and slower-paced country like the Netherlands. However, after all that frustration has passed, you realise, the Netherlands are beautiful. You restructure your plan and visit the canals of Amsterdam, the Van Gogh Museum, and drown in a sea of tulips. You have a different but incredible time there. But upon your return, everyone around you brags about Italy, and you feel the pinch of missing out on it, and you will always feel it. However, you also feel blessed to have seen the Netherlands, unlike anyone else. This is the analogy that I was given for what Autism felt like for a mother.
Mugdha Kalra, a TV Journalist and Writer is a mother to an 11-year old son with Autism, Madhav Kalra. She advocates autism awareness, inclusion in all its forms and mental health. Her journey raising Madhav has driven her to showcase it on social media and fight for a kinder, more inclusive world. We wanted to know more about her journey in raising a child with Autism this World Autism Awareness Day, and here is what she had to say.
The Challenges Of Autism
The challenges are different at different times. When Autism is newly diagnosed, acceptance is a challenge. When you tell your family and friends, understanding is a challenge. When you decide on school VS therapy, that decision is a challenge. Finding the right intervention, therapist and doctor are challenging. Even choosing between a career and motherhood is a challenge.
While these are overwhelming, she strongly believes that the key to overcoming them is acceptance, patience and a strong sense of self. As a mother raising a child with Autism, she believes that having a strong community of mothers and an understanding tribe is a great pillar of strength for her.
Dealing With The Stigma
While Mugdha knows many parents who have faced a lot of stigmas, shame, blame and pity. But she never let that happen to her as she was proud and confident from the very beginning of her journey with Madhav. She said that her family did cut some people off and that growing a thick skin is vital when it comes to raising a child with Autism. She says,
What you portray to the world gets mirrored back. If we are confident, loving and accepting of our child, people around us did just the same.
Raising An Autistic Child & Having Me-Time
Parenting a special needs child takes a huge toll emotionally. As mothers, we go through a spectrum of emotions from euphoria and confidence to utter despair and dread.
says Mugdha, who strongly believes that having me-time and taking breaks to help cope with the emotional roller-coaster that comes with Autism. She says having a supportive family to share parenting duties is important. Her mother-in-law and husband have been incredible with Madhav, helping every step of the way. Her friends spend time with Madhav as well as Mugdha alone, which is great. Having me-time is important, whether it’s going for daily walks, taking up a hobby by yourself, getting creative and working are just some ways to make time for yourself and your mental health. Additionally, asking for assistance, delegating duties and seeking professional help can be a game-changer while raising a child with Autism. Mothers need to take care of themselves, only then can they take care of their child!
Plan Your Finances Well
While raising a child with special needs, parents need to have a solid financial plan. This is important for a mother raising a child with Autism. There are now organisations that help with choosing the right insurance, availing tax benefits, trusts and even executing wills. Mugdha says that every family like hers should have a financial planning coach who is overseeing their investments and return on investments. Parents need to know how to get benefits from government schemes and how to get a disability certificate as well. All these help greatly and can make the journey so much easier.
Mugdha’s Top 5 Tips On Raising A Child With Autism
- Do not hide your child. Take him grocery shopping, to theatres, amusement parks, restaurants and to all the places where you fear he might not fit in. He will fit in only if he is taken out more often!
- Invest in tried-and-tested, evidence-based therapies for your child. Keep your plans dynamic and holistic. If you think something that worked for a while is becoming redundant, change it.
- Find your tribe. Find a strong community that will help both you and your child. Build bonds and friendships that offer unconditional support and empathy.
- Look beyond special needs and disability. Your child is much more than the “label” and there is much more to your life than just being a “special needs parent”.
- Accept, embrace and share your journey with the world.
Inclusion Is Important
Mugdha wants the world to become a friendlier and a more inclusive place for children like Madhav. She says,
I want the parents of neuro-typicals to make their children more compassionate and empathetic towards the neuro-diverse. We want our kids to play together, become friends and learn from each other. Compassion cannot be taught when we are adults and inclusion has to be the way of life from the very start.
Mugdha and Madhav’s relationship is inspiring and full of love. We hope their story changes the way you perceive autism and motherhood while also taking a step towards greater inclusion and acceptance. What are your views on this? Share it with us in the comments below!