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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

She Has Helped Parents Enjoy Life With Autistic Children

She Has Helped Parents Enjoy Life With Autistic Children
She Has Helped Parents Enjoy Life With Autistic Children
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Gamine, irrepressibly bright-eyed, there's nothing about Merry Barua,once a freelance journalist and an advertising professional, now the head of the ngo Action for Autism,to suggest that she is not Fortune's child. But 17 years ago, her world had fallen apart. Something was crucially amiss with her son, Neeraj. Unnaturally shy, he would not speak, was extremely withdrawn and seemed to have no contact with his world. Merry, who'd barely moved to Delhi, could find no one who could tell her what was wrong. Finally, a psychiatrist in Calcutta diagnosed that Neeraj was autistic.

There were no safety nets then between Merry and the abyss. No counsellors, no programmes, no understanding. Merry spent a year in Vellore, working intensively with Neeraj. Back in Delhi, she put him, then six years old, in a 'reputed' special school. That's when the real downhill journey started, says Merry. According to received wisdom, the school treated Neeraj's 'aberrant' behaviour by tying him to chairs, locking him up, sometimes slapping and beating him. He responded with frightening violence. Things kept getting worse and finally, in '92, she withdrew her son and went to the Options Institute in Massachusetts, US. That proved to be a turning point.

Autism is a little understood disability which impairs a person's social, communicative and abstract thinking skills, yet often heightens sensory perception. This means that an autistic person is trapped in a bubble world which has no relation to the world around. Unless trained how to express their needs, violence or intense behaviour becomes an autistic's communicative tool.

The Options course helped Merry turn Neeraj,and since then hundreds of others like him,into a story of triumph. She worked alone with Neeraj for a year at home,helping him develop a vocabulary and a sense of the world around...

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