1 Apr 2022 | 5 min Read
Author | 74 Articles
She has a smile that lights up the room and a laughter that can light up the whole town! There is not a hint of the challenges she faces everyday as a mum to a son with Autism, nor the pain of losing her teenage son to cancer. In short, Gargi Bhattacharya is a woman who is the perfect example of strength and optimism. She’s an inspiration.
The founder of a charitable trust called Zain Foundation, Gargi Bhattacharya is an inspiration. While her older son, Zain passed away at the young age of 15 due to brain cancer, her younger son Rean, is on the Autism Spectrum. But the fighter that she is, Gargi decided to do something positive to make a difference, rather than mourning over the loss or her misfortune.
Gargi started a charitable trust called Zain Foundation in 2015, named in honour of her older son, Zain. The foundation addresses the needs of the Autism community and also works towards inclusion of those in the autism spectrum disorder.
She believes that there is no walking stick or wheelchair to identify a person who lives with autism, as you can with other disabilities, that’s the reason why it is important to raise awareness and sensitise people about the disorder.
Gargi has been actively trying to raise awareness about Autism through roller skate rallies, superbike rides, exhibitions and workshops, etc.
In an exclusive interview with BabyChakra, Gargi Bhattacharya talks about raising her younger son Rean who is on the Autism Spectrum, and how that pushed her to start the Trust.
He suddenly stopped chewing and responding to his name and language regressed completely.
He was 19 months old. He was reaching all milestones appropriately till then. There was a regression in all types of communication, emotional and social.
It was a shock for me because he was developing beautifully and normally till then.
I immediately took him to a psychologist who asked me to get him diagnosed for autism. It was just three days since Rean had regressed. I then visited my professor who had taught me Cognitive differences in children at the University, of which Autism was a part. She advised play therapy.
Consequently, I dived into research and found a whole new world of Autism and its implications for a lifetime, for the individual, as well as the family members.
I made him go through Sensory Integration therapy, Occupational therapy, Speech Therapy, Applied Behaviour Analysis therapy and Play Therapy. Ree and I travelled throughout India to get services from the best therapists.
Over and above this, Rean had complete support and unconditional love from the family and our friends .
The biggest obstacle I have overcome in Rean’s life is that I have accepted his condition and as a family we made sure he never faced dejection, at any given point of time, no matter how unresponsive or tiring he has been to live with.
Being Rean’s mum has been the tallest test of my life and my family. He amazes me with the language that his eyes are able to spill. That apart, I would never have had the spiritual growth I have had, had it not been for him, it’s a tad more than tremendous!
Acceptance is what I would advise first and foremost. That apart, the parents together have to plan out therapies together, home the child most lovingly and never express their stress to the child.
I would advise a diagnosis at first, and put in their 100% to help the child recover from regression, while monitoring allergy profiles, diet, play, cognitive abilities and push social interaction. It is immensely testing more easily said than done, but being resolute is just the only way to be.
Zain Foundation Trust aspires to be a holistic residential place for adults and adolescents on the Autism spectrum.
Presently, the foundation keeps them engaged for a few hours in vocational activities, and physical fitness programmes, with occasional fun activities like pottery and inclusive social curricular.
The community is slowly and steadily pacing out into life, yet again, battling the fear instilled by the pandemic, justifiably so because those with Autism have existing comorbidities.
The foundation aspires to grow into a holistic residential facility for adolescents and adults with Autism, where living happily and healthily would take place within tall standards of dignity and compassion. Which will eventually address the core stress of parents of kids with Autism, who worry about what will happen to their children when they cease to be.
That it will become a paradise for those on the Autism spectrum and a complete relief for their families.
And before we end the interview, Gargi adds that the one thing she would advise all parents and caregivers of children with special needs is, “Practice happiness, like the sun may not rise the following day!” and we say “Amen” to that.