The meaning of ‘Swapna’ is dream. It’s the story of a dreaming mother about the most basic things in life with wide-open eyes. What she wants? She doesn’t want wealth; she doesn’t want her son to be the most successful person on earth. She wants her Kannu to be recognized and respected as human being. She wants dignity for her child. Seems so simple for all of us; yet so difficult to achieve on a daily basis when the child is having a problem by name Autism.
Presenting to you the story of Mrs. Swapna Thampi, a beautiful, vivacious person so full of life,Wife of Dr.Arun- an accomplished Army doctor, A triple post-graduate in Child Development and Sociology, and M.phil & M.Ed in Education, professionally trained autism counselor from USA. Above all, Mother of Kannu, A child adult with Autism. Much has been said and written about Autism. But a person, a care-giver, a mother only understands the special condition she and her son are in. We don’t count at all- Says Swapna.
Life is a culmination of trials and tribulations to Swapna, who became mother of Kannu at a young age of 22. She just finished her M.sc with a rank and enjoying life as doting wife and new mother in Assam. She and her husband were totally unaware of the danger that’s happening with their first born son, Kannu. He had a brain damage and at the tender age of two, he was diagnosed with a child with autism. The shock that happened with Swapna and Arun is immeasurable… like getting thrown into see without even basic knowledge of swimming. Premier institution, NIMHANS has Diagnised Kannu as a child with Autism. The only priority before them is their Kannu, his prognosis, and his rehabilitation and an undying hunger to know more about Autism. Swapna decided to take the journey of raising Kannu alone with the only support from her husband Dr. Arun Nair. I was left with no other option- Swapna says, as Kannu was literally ill-treated and manhandled by so called professionals who lack understanding of autism. Socially we were eliminated by ignoring our family from invitations to weddings and functions and visits too! No family with young children used to visit to our home- Swapna reiterates years together of discrimination with deep routed spiritual faith towards her guru and unconditional love towards Kannu. She then started home based training for Kannu.
A chance encounter with a senior Autism Mom, Mrs. Mary Barua changed the course of Swapna’s thinking towards more understanding of the problem and how deals with such children. She was one of the first teachers of Association For Autism. From solution seeker to solution maker swapna’s journey is one of incredible milestones living one day at a time with unparallel love which today connects Swapna with her Kannu and kannu’s kid sister Akshara. As a helpless mother who entered NIMHANS for options to her child, Swapna later went on to work in NIMH as an employee for more than a year. To help her Kannu and help many mothers like her, Swapna started dedicating het time towards studies.. did her B.Ed for Mental Retardation, M.Ed and M.phil in Education. One is amazed her ability to persistently work towards the world-class understanding of problem and reaching out to many parents like her. She helped social enthusiasts in establishing special and open schools for children with mental challenges in kerala. Counseled innumerable parents with special kids, addressed parents associations and finished her training from university of North Carolina on ASD.
Autism is an everyday challenge- Swapna declares. But love can win that! With the same philosophy she dealt with Kannu’s regression due to epilepsy and his suffering and medication when he entered teens. But…at the end of the road, Kannu connects with all of us, fond of us, follows a schedule and he loves his life and most importantly values human life than many so called gifted children- Swapna confirms with passion. Isn’t it such achievement, every mother wants from her son? Even from the so called normal children…? I believe any sensible mother wants her children to be happy, in love, more humane. If we have to judge in those categories, Swapna is the most successful and special mom to a special son.
Swapna modestly credits this success to just sheer understanding of her husband and her daughter akshara. After several transfers due to Dr.Arun Nair’s job throughout the length and breadth of India, the family now lives in Mumbai, the irregularly busy city with Kannu having problems like irregular sleep. The family moved Kannu from place to place and proud of his adoptability and progress he made as a human being. Every day is miracle for them. Kannu loves his mom studying- with renewed encouragement from Kannu and unclenched support and love from Dr. Arun, Swapna is soon going to finish her Law degree soon.
In future, Mrs. Swapna Thampi, Mother of Kannu and Akshara wishes to start an organization for children like Kannu, where they can be taught according to their respective abilities. I am sure she will do that guide many mothers with her indomitable spirit and one word solution for the most complex problems…LOVE!
In the world of super woman syndrome, we salute mothers like Swapna who stands testimony for unconditional love and enabling environment as a strong family for the challenges on a daily basis. She has in fact proved how such kind of environment helps a special kid like Kannu to grow as a worthy individual, who loves his parents and just adores his sister Akshara. Surprisingly, “Kannu” means ‘eye’ in telugu. Swapna’s world, her vision is for Kannu and for many Kannu’s and Swapna’s of this world.
Here is a small tribute to such a mom by kids like Kannu, and ignorant individuals like us. If Kannu can convey the questions in his mind, maybe he would ask the same questions to everyone who declare themselves NORMAL.
Have a Happy Mother’s Day!!
My crooked smile…
Much best than a crooked mind…
My salivating grin
The best to visit than a holy shrine…
My haphazard movements
Don’t they remind you of directionless pursuits?
My squinted sight…
Concentrates better than squinted vision?
My life filled with unconditional love
Is it same for you my friend…?
I feel so happy… so loved
Why you say I am not normal?
You may be multi-tasker
I am proud as master single tasker
I am always baby to my mom,
A dream of every lost child in adult
I am growing up…friend…
I worry for my mom/my caretaker
Their time and intelligence
The lost opportunities…the insults they face
Social, economical, moral…
The way they treated
The guilt they bear
The insecurities they have
All the humiliation… just because of me friend????
If and only if …you support their efforts
My dear fellow human!
I have given you so much…
The conditional love you give…
The hesitating handshake…
The relief in your eyes that you are not like me…
Or you don’t have a child like me?
So many nice feelings I gave you my friend…
Fed your ego and greed
Your surreal image of
So called perfection
Don’t I belong to you?… dear friend..
Part of your existence in this universe!
Why you make me part apart?
Am I not yours?
Even Autistically so??
Be a pal to me…
Support my care givers
Empower them with your
A love which I am bestowed
And blessed to have!!
Yours friend with autism!
Sometimes funny and always lively!!!