Stevenage mum speaks of help in dealing with autism

PUBLISHED: 17:00 28 April 2013 | UPDATED: 09:14 29 April 2013

Monica Sharma with her son Ahaan who has autism

Monica Sharma with her son Ahaan who has autism


APRIL is World Autism Awareness Month and one mother has spoken to the Comet about how a charity based in Stevenage has helped her son with his condition following his diagnosis.

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people and the world around them.

It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some are able to live relatively ‘everyday’ lives; others will require a lifetime of specialist support. Asperger syndrome is a form of autism.

Autism is much more common than people think and doesn’t just affect children. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism.

What are the signs?

● Autism is often described as an ‘invisible disability’ as people with the condition do not ‘look’ disabled.

● Parents of children with autism often say that other people simply think their child is naughty; while adults find that they are misunderstood.

● The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are sometimes known as the ‘triad of impairments’. They are:

● Difficulty with social communication – people with autism have difficulties with both verbal and non-verbal language. Many have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say.

● Difficulty with social interaction – people with autism often have difficulty recognising or understanding other people’s emotions and feelings, and expressing their own, which can make it more difficult for them to fit in socially.

● Difficulty with social imagination – social imagination allows us to understand and predict other people’s behaviour, make sense of abstract ideas, and to imagine situations outside our daily routine.

Monica Sharma first realised something wasn’t quite right when her son Ahaan, now aged five-and-a-half, wasn’t speaking at the age of two.

The family, who at the time were living in New Delhi, India, were referred to an early intervention centre where Ahaan was diagnosed as autistic.

“I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t speaking to us. He was hardly interacting with anyone and was very quiet,” said Monica.

“He would have very little eye contact with people too. It had really started to worry me, so when we got referred to the early intervention centre I started to learn about his condition and really began to understand about autism.”

Ahaan underwent music therapy, occupational therapy and social therapy for 19 months.

Monica, 40, said: “We started to see huge changes in him, and then my husband was offered the chance to take on a job in the UK.

“Naturally as parents we were unsure about the move because I wanted the best for my son, so we did a lot of research and came across TRACKS autism in Stevenage.

“As it happened my husband was also going to be based in Stevenage so we felt a bit more comfortable to make the move.”

The former HR director moved with her husband, Kartick, who works as a systems designs engineer, two-and-a-half years ago to Stevenage Old Town.

She got in touch with TRACKS autism, which is a specialist nursery in Stevenage for children aged between two and six who have complex social and communication disorders.

“We started to send Ahaan to workshops and sessions at TRACKS and as time went on I saw even more changes in him,” Monica said.

“He was learning to socialise, got involved in pretend play and started to communicate. He was never a difficult child but with the help of TRACKS and the sessions he had in India he has become a very affectionate child.”

Ahaan, who now attends Woolgrove School in Letchworth GC, still has sessions with TRACKS during his school holidays.

Monica, who is now a trustee of the charity, said: “TRACKS has been extremely helpful in giving us tips as parents and clearing any doubts in our heads. And as a parent I learnt to change my approach to him. We have been very lucky in that we have had a lot of guidance. Before I would speak with my son as I would any other child, but over time I have learnt that I have to talk to him a little bit slower for him to understand.”

For more information on TRACKS autism call 07955 918248.

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