Often the harder part is not dealing with the unique needs of an autistic child, but the reactions of other people.
“We don’t have such a big problem in handling our children as much as we do in handling others in the public,” Sumreen said. “But there is no point in crying or being emotionally disturbed. If we do this we can’t give them anything. If we make ourselves strong and mentally prepare ourselves, it’s good for them and it’s good for me. Then I can teach them something.”
Sumreen and Rais share this positive outlook, and seem to have a special understanding. But an unexpected challenge they faced as a result of the South Asian culture was that people tried to cause a rift in their marriage.
“We are Muslims so sometimes we are allowed to marry more than one person. So people guide Rais: ‘Why don’t you try this? Get married again, try having another child with that wife and see.’ And I tell him, ‘Rais, this isn’t a solution, because even if there is another wife she will look after her own children. This won’t solve my problem, nor will it solve yours.’”
Amazed by her honesty, I asked Sumreen where she gets her strength.
“You don’t get this strength so easily. That’s why I say parents need friendships. Parent support groups are necessary because when many parents meet each other, only they can give you strength. Otherwise some teacher, some doctor can never give you this kind of strength.
Sometimes what happens to other mothers is that they isolate themselves. These types of mothers must get out, must see things. When you see your surroundings and see other children and other parents doing a hard job, you find a strength in yourself that, ‘No, we can also do this. We will do it well.’
Before I had that a lot, that I’d stay alone, and I wouldn’t want to take the children out, or go out myself. I’d feel scared. Now after having met teachers, gotten counselling, listening to my heart, I have now realized that you should get out. When there are courses or seminars and things I go and then I realize that I am not alone; so many people are suffering.”