I always cherish the lines, of Osho, that read as “To accept the challenge of the unknown in spite, of all fears is courage. The fears are there but if we go on accepting the challenge again and again, slowly those fears disappear. The experience of the joy that the unknown brings, the great ecstasy that starts happening with unknown makes you strong enough, give you a certain integrity, makes your intelligence sharp – we start thinking that life is not a burden but an adventure.”
When the news, about our child being disabled, breaks up for the first time, it unpacks a heavy shock for us, as parents. It indeed leaves us, as parents, all in seismic disturbance. We start feeling unusual from the rest of the world. We are bound to feel on the brink of relegation. However, here is the point in time where we got to regroup and muster the strength to challenge the adversity. We got to kick off all the negative emotions and start rising above since our strength needs to be complemented by our positive attitude.
The more we pay attention to our children during early years the better it is because it allows us to craft a fine-tuned script for our twinkles. Early detection of a problem helps us to understand our child’s needs. While being parents the very first step, towards the great path of making our twinkles twinkle, is in fact, a brave step of resolving our feelings before we can let our children deal with the disability. After we resolve ourselves and let the emotions settle down we are ready to tread the path that will not only help our children to shine but it brews all along the treasure that we call happiness. We should provide opportunities, of all kinds, for growth of our children. We should not hesitate to talk about the disability of our child with other people. It offers a worthy result that is it builds our acceptance level. Initial years are tough and full of anxiety. However, trust me the weight of anxiety, over the time, automatically becomes less.
I will never forget the day when doctors took the lid off about my son’s disability. The weight of my broken dreams was so heavy that it looked as if a house had collapsed on me and yet I stayed alive at the bottom of the heap of rubble. I fought through all the rubble and, over the time, I felt the weight of debris getting lighter and lighter. If a tiger were to come into our room, most of us would have an anxiety response. Our body will get loaded with a big shot of adrenaline and we will be prepared to fight, flee or freeze. This way we respond when we become aware that we are threatened, by something, in some way. When we know that our child needs special care and protection we get anxious energy. This anxious energy could easily become either bane or boon. And here we got to ensure that this anxious energy infuses self-belief in us and once the self-belief brews up in our veins it will unearth for us a mission to accomplish. This is what I, on a personal level, encountered with. I ensured that my anxious energy gets utilized in a positive manner as I did not let it to grab fear or insecurity around me. Instead this anxious energy offered me awareness and pushed me to gather all possible sorts of information. Therefore, parents, with disabled children, must ensure that the anxious energy nudges them to mobilize their resources. Getting information, talking with other parents, seeking out help from professionals, anything that reduces the sense of powerlessness is a good way to use anxious energy.
An intelligent parent is one who remains alert whatsoever, the situation and responds to it with his/her whole hear and common sense. Whenever a situation arises that creates fear there are two alternatives, either you fight or you take flight. I embraced the former.
Most people, the sighted ones, believe that blind people need loads of help. It’s almost always the first reaction people tend to put forth when they meet a young blind child. As parents, at times, it is very tough to bear when they become the news amongst other people due to their disabled children. This pushes the parents into the zone of reluctance and they hesitate to speak about their disabled children in public. However, being a mother, of a disabled child, I instantly realized that it is a wrong perception. Therefore, we must always discuss about our kids not only in front of them but also in front of other people. We must take our kids out and let them feel the part of the environment. This yields positive results at many fronts. Your child feels complemented with the surroundings and of course, it elevates the acceptance level amongst the people around. Being able to acknowledge and work through painful feelings can build emotional, spiritual and psychological skills that can help us to cope in many other areas of life.
On a trip to Banglore once, in a train, with my family one of the passengers after seeing my son started to become ambitious. He hurled following kind of questions. How does my son, Aarush, eat? How does he dress himself? Aarush replied the way everybody does. In fact, my son’s reply sent surprise signals around. “We need coordination of hands and mouth in eating the food and hence, there is no role of eyes”. This is what my son replied. Some sighted people believe that blind people are helpless. I think it is because they cannot imagine people doing things without eyesight. We should, therefore, give our children skills and tools to navigate safely and knowledgeably through environment. We should teach them through sense of directions.
After three months onwards I changed the whole pattern of my communication with my son. I kept focusing more on tactile things. I started communicating with him using concepts of directions. For instance, “Go straight 15 steps, then towards right side is a room, inside the room there is a table on left side at 8 steps, etc.” This is how I communicated with him during initial years. This yielded untold results for both of us. It helped my son to react naturally instead of feeling frustrated. He adapted this kind of inputs and later the process became so natural that he even communicated with us in the same way. What other kids at the age, of Aarush, could learn? I, being mother, feel satiated since he learnt all those things. However, the only difference was the method. If a child, of two years, knows banana is of yellow colour and draws the same thing on paper. How does it matter if he/she does not know how to draw it on the paper? However, knows well enough that banana is a long fruit of yellow colour. That is knows all information about the fruit.
For me it does not matter what my son doesn’t know. For me the most important thing is what he knows. Brain is an equal opportunity employer. It does not care what avenue the information comes as long as understanding takes place. And understanding takes place in both kinds of children – sighted and blind. Aarush learnt everything what other kids at his age learnt, may be others learnt by seeing Aarush learnt it by touching smelling and tasting.
My approach and my efforts helped me to discover yet another marvelous treasure of the universe and that is “No child has learning disability“.
One fine day a mother visited my house. She has a son who, at that time, was five years old. However, like my twinkle, he is visually handicapped. The mother was fearful, frightened and anxious. Once I enquired about her being fretful she came up with the same kind of answers that we normally hear from parents having disabled children. I did not console her rather I made her meet my son. After spending few moments with my son she was surprised to uncover many things. My point of discussing this tale is to come up with the real issue at hand. I found it was not her son who was disabled rather it was mother herself who was disabled. That disability of her was purely due to lack of information. I have time and again encountered cases wherein I see ignorance is the cause of many issues facing us.
When I observed the child I found him quite intelligent. I observed him sneaking into my kitchen and immediately he could make out what was being cooked by the steam coming out of the pressure cooker. Upon asking the child what was getting cooked I was surprised by his accurate answer. I enquired the mother about it. She responded that the boy frequently sneaked into kitchen at home and that is how he could make it out without realizing that it is the skill of her boy.
My experience has enriched me with an important lesson and that is imparting knowledge and information to your disabled children. However, knowledge and information have not to be just bookish whereas any sort of activity that imparts them in real sense. Here is the boy who could know the food by its steam and here we go. This is a kind of learning and as we all learn from our environments. The same apply to disabled children as well. I replied that mother that she had restricted her son to the walls of her house thereby allowing her anxious energy becoming a heap of rubble upon her. I suggested her to take him out, make him learn from the environment, give him platform and see how he responds.
Therefore, it is the parents who have to educate themselves first. We do not have to limit ourselves with dos and don’ts. Our aim should be to provide information to our kids no matter how. Nothing goes waste this is my personal experience. There is a candle of excellence within each child and parents’ efforts must be to rekindle that candle. We must show confidence in our children. That is of paramount significance and there is no alternative for it.
Let me trip down to few months back to our old home since now we live at other place. Our home was at the 4th floor in one of the buildings and there are around 40 steps to tread before we could knock at our door. My family initially was enveloped with apprehensions, all the time, about it being not safe for my son. Being mother I always have shown confidence in my son and he never has let me down at any stage. I felt it earlier that treading 40 steps would make him vigilant and infuse more activeness in him. This is what happened exactly and he could easily make any number of trips up and down without any help of whatever kind. However, I just added a flavor to this process by making it a thrill for him. I would go down and wait for him at the last step and would call him, “Come down Aarush, Mom is waiting here…” He would come down as fast as a normal child. It would make his experience thrilling and simultaneously offered him buckets of confidence.
Being mother my moment of happiness is that today he rides school bus on his own. He manages his classroom, at the 4th floor, on his own with the help of his friends. He manages his school on his own.
Therefore, what conclusion has dawned upon me, it is not the environment we got to change, and it is us who got to change. Just do not impose weight on you being worrisome for tomorrow. What appeared impossible yesterday might be very easily possible today. This is simply because everyday new techniques and breakthroughs are accomplished. Enjoy with your kids. Give them the best you can. Question your assumptions about disabled children. Those assumptions of ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ ‘do’ and ‘do not’ must be pushed away to oblivion once for all. Just focus on “Yes, they can“.