Posted by Akila Vaidyanathan, Coimbatore
The lockdown has been a revelation of sorts about the true nature of those like my son Nishant Sriram, 24, who have autism and apraxia. Nishant is a happy go lucky young man. He communicates using apps like Avaz and Clicker Docs on his iPad as he is non vocal.
Nishant interns at AMAZE 5 days a week. He has cooking / baking duties for half a day. Then he has some computer based work or lamination or art based orders. Some days he a has yoga class and others he goes cycling for 5-7 kilometers. Weekends, we tend to go to the mall or eat out at a restaurant and sometimes drive up to the hills for a trek. With the lockdown, we were really worried how he will cope with being at home all day.
We are happy to have discovered that he is quite a homebody. He paces himself according to his moods and needs of the household and he switches between preferred and non-preferred tasks with ease. He seems to understand what to expect from the members of our family – his grandparents, parents and sister, who all have variable routines at home now. There have been very few meltdowns and his overall anxiety has come down.
One thing which is working out for Nishant is structuring his day and ensuring he is engaged in a variety of activities. Making a visual schedule to refer to, reinforces the changes in activities or timings. Within a week or ten days, he was able to internalise the new schedule and is able to easily accept some changes to it. We also have created Corona Countdown Calendars for each announcement of the Lockdown and he has taken it well.
This period showed me how helpful and hardworking my son really was. He is ever willing to help out in any way and there is no procrastination or objection to doing his chores. In fact, a few days into the lockdown, he understood his part of the duties. So he needed no prompting to initiate or complete his tasks. This was an eye opener – for his facilitators and trainers always kept prompting or reminding him at his Center. It showed us that we could guide him and then step back, and he felt good to be useful and take on responsibilities.
Nishant loves art and graphics. For him it is more the process of exploring with the colours and paint, not so much the end product. Of late, he also explores some themes like nature (flora and fauna) and repetitive patterns. We have done some art almost every day, thanks to the online art classes on Facebook by Shaloo Sharma of Evoluer, Gurugram. He also likes online jigsaw puzzles, so we have converted some of his art to puzzles which he enjoys even more. He is paying attention to the facilitator for his online art and drumming sessions (with Rzhude David from Bengaluru) – this is a new skill he has developed due to the lockdown.
We both love cooking. Together, we have been enjoying cooking and serving many new recipes. Again technology to the rescue, we explore new recipes on YouTube and note down the ingredients and method by creating a tab on his AAC Avaz app and then try it out. Nishant likes to post pictures of his art work and dishes he cooked in his Facebook account. The social media also helps him to check out what his close friends and relatives are doing.
What we have learnt about him is that he enjoys simple day to day pleasures, He is extremely loving and is very connected to his being. He has been so happy to simply have us all at home. He has been absolutely calm. Every now and then he comes up to me with a beautiful smile on his face and often I also get a loving hug or kiss, which just says, “Thank you Mom for being around”. It is a bubble I don’t want to burst!!
Living the lockdown with Nishant and autism has taught us that it is okay to slow down. Maybe the meltdowns we were all having was because we were in a spin trying to do too much.