KOZHIKODE: When this correspondent called Sahira (name changed) on Tuesday night, she could not continue the conversation as her son snatched away the phone. Her efforts to calm him down went in vain and she had to cut the call.
She asked me to call her on Wednesday during the day time so that she can speak while her son sleeps. Her 16-year-old son is autistic and she doesn't know how to deal with his tantrums ever since the closure of his special school in the wake of Covid-19.
"He has been going to the special school for the past nine years. Except on Sundays, he is there from 9.30 am to 4 pm on all other days. Autistic kids always want to go out as it makes them happy and calm. He used to thoroughly enjoy the daily trip to school in an autorickshaw. Now, being confined to home, he is irritable. He throws a tantrum when some visitor comes. So, I have kept my gate locked. I don't know what to do and how long to stay put inside," said the 42-year-old homemaker.
Sahira knows that taking her son for an outing will definitely calm him, but there is no one to help her as her husband works in Kochi. "I have to take care of my aged mother as well. My elder son is abroad doing medicine. I cannot do anything as my special kid cannot tolerate anyone else except me and his teachers. He had made good improvement after undergoing various therapies at school daily. I don't know how discontinuing the therapy will affect him," she said.
Parents' job at stake
There are many such parents caught in a harrowing situation due to Covid-19 outbreak. Shakir Thondikod, the father of an 18-year-old autistic boy, now regularly takes his son for a drive and a trip to the beach to calm him down.
"House detention makes things worse for autistic kids. It is worse for parents who do not own a vehicle as public transportation is least preferred now. Working parents have no choice but to take long leave and sit with their special," said Shakir. Those who cannot take long leave are in utter distress.
Siraj T K N, secretary of the trust which runs Roshi Special School here, said that many parents are grappling with their hyperactive kids at home after the closure of the school. Dr Soumya Viswanath, consultant physiatrist at Nest International Academy and Research Centre (NIARC), Koyilandy, said that disruption in therapies such as behavioural therapy causes problems in special kids.
"Disturbance in their daily routine affects such kids. Individual care, developing a sustainable home-based routine and online consultation with doctor or therapist can be tried in the current situation" she said. Though special schools were closed, institutions for differently-abled which come under clinical establishment are functioning uninterrupted.