Rashmi Handa is a 73 old lady who live a simple and content life in India. She is a proud mother of a 47-year-old son named “Dipu”, who is on the autism spectrum with Intellectual Disability. Despite her love for her son, Rashmi’s journey as a parent was far from easy.
Rashmi was told that her son is “mentally retarded” at age of 15 months. She did run pillar and post till her son “Dipu” was 6. After that it was schooling, however, the school were only like a crèche.
In those days, there was no internet or Google to search for information about intellectual disabilities or autism. There were no support groups or therapy centers, and very little awareness about these conditions. Rashmi felt alone and frustrated, not knowing how to help her son. She felt like she was failing as a mother, as she watched Dipu who was verbal with the need based speech, struggled to communicate to express himself and interact with others. But having a supportive members in her family and in neighborhood she did not give up.
Despite some difficulties, Rashmi never gave up on Dipu. She sought help from anyone she could, and attended every workshop and seminar she could find on autism. She talked to other parents of children with autism and learned from their experiences. She even taught herself in a 3 month long program in special education (when Dipu was 6) to help Dipu learn independence and some skills. But that short course couldn’t add much value to as it was a course in special Education and Autism was a mere 15 minutes lecture during that course. Dipu was further evaluated when he was four and a half and also during that course. Nobody could diagnose Dipu at that time. Later, Dipu was diagnosed by the school psychologist in 1991! So, Dipu got a late diagnosis at around 14 years of his age.
Dipu’s childhood was marked by a withdrawn and introverted demeanor, which made it difficult for him to actively participate in social activities. It was often a struggle to get him to engage in anything, and he would require a significant amount of encouragement.
As Dipu reached puberty, he began to exhibit aggressive behavior, which only served to further alienate him from his peers. It was during this time that Rashmi began to question his situation, wondering why he was different from others and why he couldn’t fit in. This led to a prolonged period of self-doubt and insecurity in Rashmi which took many years to overcome. That’s when Rashmi’s actual “why me” phase began. Rashmi went into years long of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. She couldn’t understand as why it has been written in her fate. It took years to get out of that phase. However, years passed, with perseverance and her resilience; with the support from her family and loved ones, Rashmi was able to emerge from this tough phase. Rashmi’s hard work and dedication towards her son paid off. Dipu began to make progress, slowly but surely. He started to learn various lifeskills, and he made new friends in the local special needs community and in his locality. Rashmi was able to make Dipu find his place in the world Rashmi was overjoyed to see her son thriving, and she felt proud of the progress he had made.
Rashmi never stopped advocating for her son and for others on the autism spectrum. She worked tirelessly to spread awareness about autism and to help other families in similar situations. Despite the lack of resources and support in those early days, Rashmi never lost hope, and she remained a dedicated and loving parent to Dipu till date.
Rashmi Handa’s journey is a testament to the power of love, determination, and hard work. Her story is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope, and that with love and persistence, anything is possible. Rashmi is an inspiration to the young and new generation parents. Specialsaathi salutes the grit and resilience of Rashmi Handa and feature her as a ChangemakerSaathi on Specialsaathi.com
Creative representation for the ChangemakerSaathi story is done by our CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal. Artwork by Kabir Vernal reminds Rashmi of his own son 🙂