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The smile that made the day: on austism spectrum disorder

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Disabled children in care homes need all the help we can extend

I had expected to see grinning faces, as you see in the movies or in magazines, old or new. Those little faces with an occasional missing tooth and hair neatly plaited. Running around in open spaces or sitting in a quiet room learning from a donated book.

I entered this place that didn’t look like home, didn’t look like school, didn’t look like an office. Three ladies welcomed us in and talked to us about how we could help. What we could donate, how we could volunteer, with funds, with old books. Or we could take them out for a day, we could get them treats, we could sponsor a child’s entire education. They had an option for everyone. They were desperate for help.. 

Not for long we could hold our enthusiasm to see them. I couldn’t wait to see what I had “expected”.

When it started drizzling, we all had to move indoors. I was allowed to visit one block that day and I went into the “disabled ward”. 

Inside the room were 15 kids with high degrees of autism. All in their teens, tied to seats or beds. They were yelling at the top of their voices and drooling all over their clothes. They were in their teens, yes, but they looked no older than five. There were two women looking after a dozen kids. They were feeding the children porridge constantly as they kept spitting it out, until they swallowed some. It had become a habit; they weren’t affected by it at all. 

I wasn’t sad, but amused. I was amused to see the grit the kids had. How they couldn’t walk as we could, talk as we could, and even if they could do that both they couldn’t remember doing any of it.

As I was staring into the distance, registering the fact that life has been so unfair that we’ve got so much more and we still make snide comments about how unfair life has been to us. When we could enjoy a hot shower after a long and tiring day, lie in our mothers arms knowing we’re safe, running around in the playground with friends, so many little things these kids could never get to experience.

One volunteer placed a girl on the bed after feeding her dinner. She was the kid that made the biggest impact on me that day.

I don’t remember her name, her age or even how she looked. But I remember one distinct attribute of hers. She was disabled, disfigured, she was too tiny for her age and she couldn’t move most of her body.

Nah, these things didn’t cross my mind twice. She turned around, just her head, just a tiny little bit and stared into my eyes. I was caught staring at her and smiled to myself. And what did she do? She returned that smile.

That smile is the only detail that remains etched in my mind from that evening. And that smile I hope will be the reason for so many things I want to do to help make life easier for people like them. Because she chose to smile.

I don’t have a lot of money to myself given that I get a strict pocket allowance from my parents, but I would encourage all of you to take little steps to help such children. We’ll all have old shoes, clothes we never take out from our wardrobe, children’s books we are too old to read now, anything, to any orphanage near your place. 

They need all the help they can.

madhumithasashokkumar@gmail.com

 

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 7:15:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-smile-that-made-the-day-on-austism-spectrum-disorder/article21822959.ece

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