April 22, 2012

No limits to love

The scream that penetrated Class VII was louder than even the drums that were being beaten for the march past practice.

The teacher rushed out to see what the matter was and the class broke into loud discussions about the source of the scream. “It is from the LKG class,” announced Pranitha.

“Some kid must have hurt some other kid badly,” exclaimed Chirag, gleefully. But  Ananya had heard that scream many times before. She knew it was from her brother Akash. So when the teacher came back and asked her to go to the principal’s office, she got up with a sigh.

Little Akash had been brought to the office, kicking and screaming. The sight of his sister calmed him down a little bit. As she mumbled some soothing words into his ears, taking care not to go too close, Ananya felt hot tears threatening to roll down her cheeks. This brother of hers had begun to embarrass her in school too.

Akash’s autism had troubled Ananya for as long as she could remember. When Akash was just a year old, her mother had suspected that something was wrong. “You would smile at people when you were three months old. He doesn’t smile and he is not talking even though he is a year old,” her mother had fretted.

Then, there had been visits to specialists and the diagnosis was made. “Your brother has autism. It is something that affects the way his brain works but it is not a disease like cold that you can catch,” her father had explained.  Her mother had cried a lot and things were confusing.

The therapies had begun. The house had undergone many changes, including a change of  doorbell. “Akash doesn’t like some sounds and often reacts violently to them. So we need to make changes,” her parents had explained. “But I liked the earlier doorbell,” Ananya had mumbled under her breath. Being eight years older than her brother she was expected to “adjust” a lot, but when she saw her brother improving, she felt happy.
Her mother’s arrival in school brought her back to the present. “This is the first time he has heard the drums. The sound has upset him,” her mother was explaining to the principal. “ I will see how to get him used to this.”
“We shall consider shifting the class away from the playground so that the drum beat doesn’t disturb Akash,” replied the principal.

Back in class, Ananya had to explain her brother’s behaviour to her friends. “He looks so ‘normal’,” exclaimed one girl. “Yes, he does but there are some things that are special about him. He always wants to sit in the same spot and he doesn’t like to be touched. And he can solve puzzles faster than I can...” continued Ananya, suddenly feeling  proud of her brother, the embarrassment and anger melting away.

At home, her mother greeted her with her favourite ice-cream. “I am so proud of you Ananya, you handled your brother very well today. He has been able to go to school because I know you will stand up for him if any one tries to make fun of him. I know it has not been easy on you. Now that Akash is making good progress, I will leave him with your grandparents for a day and you and I shall go to your favourite mall.”

Ananya felt very happy. When she heard her brother calling her name, she thought, “I love my brother.”

Deccan Herald - Open Sesame  - Children's page
Autism Awareness Day
Bharathi Prabhu, Mar 30, 2012

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