“My kids went on to be the first two special kids for sea swimming who made it to the Guinness World Records”

“Joanne was 1.5 years old, but barely spoke; she’d have no eye contact with me when I spoke to her. She’d cry if her toys weren’t lined up a certain way. Finally, the doctor broke the news to me, ‘She has Autism.’

Initially, I kept thinking, ‘Nobody in the family has Autism, how is it possible?’, ‘She looks so normal.’ But when Brydan, my newborn was also diagnosed with Autism, it hit me–both my kids were special; I was terrified.

At the time, we lived in Dubai–my husband and I were both working. I thought of quitting my job but owing to financial constraints, I couldn’t–their speech therapy alone cost Rs.80,000 a month.

I’d feel guilty leaving them with a maid; every 2 hours, I’d rush home to check on them… it just wasn’t working out.

Finally, in 2013, my husband and I quit our jobs and relocated to India; the medical facilities were a lot better here. For 6 months, we dug deep into our pockets to set up a home in Mumbai, while struggling to find a job with flexible timings. When nothing worked out, we launched our own startup and began working from home–that way, both of us could give our kids that attention.

Joanna adjusted to life in Mumbai well but Brydan would run around the house and bang his head on the walls. I’d try to calm him down by taking him for a walk and distracting him with toys, but nothing worked.

Once, our therapist said, ‘You’re trying to pull your child into the normal world. Why not try to fit into his world?’ I needed to see the world from their eyes–Brydon and Joanna couldn’t speak properly, so I had to find a new way for them to express.

Along with special school, I put them in swimming classes. Joanne loved the water, but Brydan hated it. He’d yell the moment he saw water; people would ask us, ‘Why are you forcing him?’

But Brydan changed after swimming–he became calmer; his concentration increased. So, his dad and I would stand next to the pool and motivate him. Infact, we both learnt swimming in our late 30s to give Brydan company.And in a year, Brydan became an expert swimmer; he could do 40 rounds across the pool in 50 minutes! So, his coach suggested, ‘Why don’t you explore deep sea swimming?’

In 2019, my kids went on to be the first two special kids to participate in sea swimming! I then put them into skating classes–within months, they participated in an international competition–they skated 48 hours, non-stop with their team and made it to the Guinness World Records!

Midway during the competition, it started pouring, but Brydan and Joanne were the only two kids skating in the ring. When I saw that, my heart swelled with pride.

When the winner’s were being announced, the judges addressed us as ‘Joanne and Brydan’s parents’. My husband and I held each other’s hands and broke down. We knew in that moment that our kids were actually ‘special’ in the best way possible.” #WorldAutismDay

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