( The Birthday Stories -1 )
In inclusive schools dedicated collaboration among the parents, professionals and the school authorities leads to more progress of neurodivergent children in all aspects of their holistic development.
In the very first workshop on ASD that I attended, I learnt how birthdays could be a very useful tool in enhancing our children’s social skills. Siddhanth was then in Sr KG and as suggested in the workshop , I requested his class teacher to send home a note whenever there was a birthday celebration at school. She very sweetly obliged. This was one of the starting points for me to open up conversations with Siddhanth to facilitate him to recall and narrate the events at school. Birthdays being an exciting event, offered scope for a lot of enthusiastic attempts by him in verbal expressions at a stage when he was just beginning to speak in full sentences.
Later in Grade I he moved on to another school . This school had a policy of not allowing students to distribute sweets or gifts on birthdays. This was to ensure equality among the students and to curb the unhealthy competition among parents to flaunt their lifestyle by distributing fancy gifts. However a special mention about the birthday was made in the School Assembly and all the students would sing the Happy Birthday song in chorus for the birthday kid.
It is under this background that it is commendable that the school followed Siddhanth’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in its true spirit and encouraged him to develop his social skills. The teachers and counsellors always found some way to support him in his individual progress while keeping in mind the development of his young growing neurotypical peers too.
I remember one evening when I was waiting to pick him back from school. There was a Games period going on inside the school ground . Just before the final bell was about to ring, the children of that class were wishing the Physical Education (PE) teacher for her birthday. So when the bell rang and Siddhanth returned , I informed him about Kalpana teacher’s birthday and on the spur of the moment asked him if he would like to give her a Greeting Card. He instantly agreed . As there was an ARCHIES shop in the adjacent building, it didn’t take him long to select a card and write his name. We then went back to the now almost empty school to give it to his teacher.
Cut to a couple of months later. It was the school counsellor’s birthday and she took Siddhanth to the Resource Room . In the privacy of her cabin she gave him a sweet and informed him that it was her birthday. He thanked her and wished her . But that was not all. As he came out of the school , he saw his cousin waiting to take him back home. Siddhanth immediately informed him about Ms Behroze’s birthday and expressed his desire to buy a Greeting card for her. He even showed his cousin the shop.So they went and bought a card and he went back to the Resource Room to give it to her.
It is difficult to put in words the mutual joy that Behroze Ma’am and I felt as we shared notes the next time that we met . The whole thing panned out so organically that it left us speechless. One of the greatest joys in the upbringing of our children is when they take initiatives in our absence and when we hear it from others. Very often our children give us these moments to rejoice and lead us to believe that they are our greatest teachers – they show us the way as we embark on our journey with them.
Author Jaya Sudhakar
Jaya Sudhakar has done her Masters in Physics and was employed as an Asst.Manager in a PSU. Her son’s diagnosis urged her to seek voluntary retirement from service . She is actively involved with Forum for Autism, Nayi Disha and The Spectrum Autism. Friends,tending to plants, reading, writing, music, movies, travelling and a little bit of spirituality are her perennial energy boosters.
Typing of story in Word and Creative graphics done by CreativeSaathi Siddhanth Palaparti, Jaya’s son
Siddhanth is a budding graphic designer, coder and music lover. He has graduated in computer applications and completed several certificate courses. His work trajectory includes internships, freelancing and voluntary work for social causes. He derives immense happiness from remembering birthdays and wishing everyone for it. Swimming, travelling and playing music on the keyboard are his other passions.