The journey of life has a different meaning for everyone. For parents of children having Autism it entails different experiences , diverse itinerary, and different destinations to reach.
I am Indu Chaswal, a mother of two adults with Autism. My son Mikku and my daughter Vrinda are in their thirties. Like most special needs parents for me, too, life has been a roller coaster ride.
Initially, acceptance was the biggest challenge , especially when my second child ( Vrinda) was diagnosed. The “why me ” changed into ” Why me again,” Thirty years back, the roadblocks were many. There was the Stress due to the feeling of loss; caring for the children seemed like a burden, and the thought of the long-term financial support they would need was devastating.
Gradually, we started meeting other parents & professionals who helped Ashwani ( my husband) and me to start educating ourselves on understanding Autism and exploring opportunities to empower ourselves .
We were blessed to meet people like Merry Barua and Sandra Dawson Bhattacharjee, who motivated us to raise our children with unconditional love and acceptance! I joined Action for Autism as a trainee teacher in 1996, and thereafter, there was no looking back. My husband also put in his best to support the cause as an active board member of Action for Autism. It was this time when I gave up my job as a mainstream school teacher from Kendriya Vidyalaya and plunged into Special Education. Earlier in 1986, after I realized that my son needed me, I had resigned from my first job ( I was working in a Nationalized Bank). Many friends were shocked to see me chuck two government jobs. I have absolutely no regrets about it. Working in the field of disability was like getting my daily dose of oxygen!
From 2010 onwards, I stepped into working on a wider range and supported several other parents and professionals to set up training services and centers . It was a further learning experience, even though I was facilitating programs. I got to know about the perspectives and needs of parents and professionals across the country and the neighboring ones like Maldives and Bangla Desh.
As mentioned earlier as a mother,during the last thirty years, I have gone through several challenges. OftenI felt “alone” as our family and friends found it difficult to understand what we were going through. I do not blame them. Rather, I stopped expecting . As I have matured, I have developed positivity, and my own personality has evolved such that it’s easier for others to relate to my situations.
Nobody’s life is perfect because the reality is that we are humans, and what we perceive as imperfections in us or our children are what make us and them unique and beautiful!
We never compared our children with others. Instead we nurtured their abilities. The most precious time was when my daughter started painting . What she did initially appeared to me as smudges of paints that she loved to make. Nevertheless, I encouraged & guided her, and in 2013, Vinda’s painting exhibition was held in Belgium Embassy and some leading malls of New Delhi!!
One of the crucial times for all parents is when dealing with the transition of their children into adolescence and adulthood. What helped me to navigate through the phase was understanding their needs related to growing up and providing appropriate training . A very close friend and a colleague( Viveka Chattopadyay) once said very well, ” My dear, you have to go through the process of acceptance once again during their Adolescence” . Totally agree with her! My priorities changed as both my children went through different stages of their lives.
In 2017, my husband was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. It was ” why me again.” The shock and grief were natural, but we had to fight with it. The last three years of his life ( he left us in 2020) were spent not crying but planning my future with the children. Mikku was sent in a residential setup where his father saw him happily settling. Vrinda is still with me. She has a better understanding than her brother, and we explained her father’s going as a process of his healing.
During this period, we registered a CharitableTrust to create services in Jalandhar Punjab and another private trust for the welfare of Mikku and Vrinda.
I now have a new role as a single parent, and I pray that I can leave behind happiness for my own children and those I work with !
Aaddit Charitable Trust
Indu Chaswal is a Parent -Professional with over 25 years of experience in the field of Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities. Her area of work is vast . Ms Chaswal has been active in Training Individuals with Special Needs, Parents and Professionals . She has developed Training modules and materials for RCI, IGNOU, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, World Bank and The National Trust. Indu Chaswal has conducted several training Workshops in India and Abroad. She runs her own organization by the name Aaddit Charitable Trust.
Creative representation for the ChangemakerSaathi story “The Iron Lady- Indu Chaswal” – is done by supertalented CreativeSaathi associate Dhrov Tikoo.
The artwork used for the ChangemakerSaathi story update above(featured image) is done by our supertalented CreativeSaathi associate Ansh Batra