By Preeti Dahiya
The never ending quest of an Autism mother to find something that helps her child to express herself in some form or the other led me to explore art therapy for my daughter about three months ago.
Before I tell you how it goes, let me tell you that prior to this, we have tried all sorts of sports activities like swimming, horse riding, cycling, skating for my girl. She loves movement. She has great balance. She is thrilled when the wind hits her face while skating or cycling or when she splashes water while swimming. But that’s the catch, in all the sporting activities her sensory needs would take over. She would only enjoy the sensory inputs and not learn to calm herself down.
Sports are great for a growing child and specially for an autistic kid who is hyper. It really helps channelize her energy in a positive way but then we were not moving forward in calming her overactive sensory seeking body and brain.
So we signed up for a trial art class and voila!
The colors, the textures, the strokes – they all came together to bring that much needed calmness in my child.
Ever since Avani’s diagnosis with Autism at the age of 2, my child has been to all these classes/therapies non-stop. This kid has worked harder, slept less, cried louder perhaps than any other kid. Every time I would force her to go to a therapy that she was reluctant to join, it would break my heart to hear my child cry for several minutes before ‘settling down’.
I would often sit outside her therapy sessions and wonder if they (the therapists) are breaking my child’s independent spirit in the name of correcting her behavior!
But Art Therapy entered our routine at perhaps the right time. Avani knows her schedule by heart. On art class days, she gets excited around the time that she is supposed to leave for it. Once in the class, she starts telling her teachers the colors she wants, the tools she wants and there’s never a dull moment.
My child is learning to express herself through art and as a mother I feel thrilled at the prospects ahead. I recently got ten of her paintings framed and put them up for appreciation on Facebook. It was absolutely overwhelming to see the response of friends and well wishers who came forward to not just write encouraging words for Avani but even offered to buy her work.
So now on the advice of her therapists, we have decided to share Avani’s art with the world. We regularly get her work framed, put it out on social media platforms (we are yet to set up a website for her) and those who lock a particular piece of art, get it first. The purpose also is to teach the money concept to Avani. Over a period of time, we wish to see her independently manage her own money.
The biggest fear that troubles an Autism mom is the fear of ‘what happens when am gone’? Am not immune to that fear and it has given me innumerable sleepless nights. I feel I would’ve fulfilled my responsibilities towards my daughter if I help her become a self dependent, aware and caring individual before I enter the last stage of my life.
(Preeti Dahiya is Avani’s proud mother and a media personality based in New Delhi.)