A clear majority of the population we serve are children with congenital conditions – hearing and speech impairment, cerebral palsy, intellectual challenges, Down syndrome, multiple disabilities. They are from all sorts of backgrounds – economical, education, religious, racial, color – and it is apparent that all disabilities happen across all societal structures. Their innocent faces and playfulness, tells us that kids are just kids - everywhere. When they come to our facility, the children sit with the parent most of the time – unaware of the parent’s heart weighed down with anxiety and grief. The parents are mostly young mothers below thirty. This may be their first or second child. The expressions on their faces sometimes reveal what they are going through. Caring for the special needs child has changed their lives. On most days, while walking in the corridors I meet parents waiting for their turn in the diagnostic and therapy sessions. Once in a while, a young couple come to my room and they breakdown as they talk about their challenges. These parents and children have become part of my life and I realized that this experience has a long term effect on me as I watch kids everywhere.
I had to travel quite a lot recently and waiting at departure terminals has been an essential part. As I am forced to wait due to the delays or long transit time I spend some time working on my laptop, and rest of the time I just sit and watch the crowd passing by. Airports are busy places and I can see a lot of people going in a hurry. A lot of young families pass by with their young children – some on strollers, others hanging on to the parent’s fingers or yet others just running along. Some are busy eating, or asking questions, or running ahead, or pulling on their small carry-ons. If there are two or more, they may be busy chasing each other. Then there are families that sit in the adjacent seats with their children. The children will be running around playfully doing one thing or the other. Every place is a playground for them. They may have their own teddy bears or small toy cars. Some may be busy playing the video games on tablets. I watch them with a sense of fascination – as if I see such kids for the first time.
As I watch them, my heart gets a spontaneous, momentary refreshing feeling of joy. I look at the parents and see how unaware they are of their child, immersed in their own thoughts. Some may be watching their child with a smile – a carefree smile. Somehow I get a feeling of relief. Sometimes sitting there, I try to imagine the time when this child was born to the parents few years back and try to think of their emotions at that time. I try to picture those first few years. The child grew through natural development cycles. Smiled, walked on fours, stood up, started calling ‘dada’ and ‘mama’, took baby steps and on and on. Nothing to worry, no cares, no concerns. They are happy. I am so happy for them too! But then soon my mind gets back to the children and their parents who come to us. That reality puts me in a different perspective. I am more aware of our own responsibility to give the best services possible. We need to continuously improve on what we do so that we can get those parents to a state of mind that is worry free – just like these care free parents in front of me.
I also realize how we all take things for granted everyday. The parents with a special needs child have a different journey in life than that of a typically developing child. While one set of parents casually go through life’s events, not realizing the blessings bestowed on them, taking every developmental milestones for granted, the other set of parents have a path where every small advancement is eagerly noted and celebrated with a deep sense of relief and joy. The priorities in the path strewn with disappointments, depression, and loneliness are different from the other one. Possibly, the mere utterance of the word, “mama” gives much more ecstasy than when the typical child sings a nursery rhyme or reels out the alphabets. But they both deeply love their child and have the same emotions when their child cries or laughs. They both tightly hug their tiny-tot every day, wishing for a good future! Me too!
I realize my own unconscious emotional swing while watching the kids - one in the mother's lap or the one running around - is something that I have to take balanced so as to keep my perspectives right!
Addendum: I sit there and just move my fingers, speak to myself, hum a tune, or write a sentence and try to understand and appreciate how much complex mechanical, electrical and electronic process is executed within me every minute and how my system just responds without me conscious of any of those! Wonders of life!!
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