Our Night: Mother’s Day Celebration
Vasanthy was having a hard time getting her 10- year old son to his after- school program. He is a runner, and will dart in a direction of his choosing if Vasanthy doesn’t have a firm grip on his hand. Today, he has decided to play in the dirt outside of SAAAC. Kneeling down, he begins to put clumps of soil into his pockets. “No, son, no. Let’s go inside. Play time inside,” Vasanthy is short with her instructions, making sure her son understands. After a lot of coaxing, he eventually gets up and Vasanthy carefully accompanies her son inside.
Vasanthy is one of 50 mothers who take part in SAAAC’s ADE Programming– a family support program that helps parents develop the skills, strategies, and network to support the development of their children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
At today’s session, Vasanthy drops her child off with his designated volunteer for the evening and then heads over to the parent meeting area where she settles in with a few of her friends to participate in a special Mother’s Day celebration.
Tonight’s session, organized by Sashi Jeganathan (a community member who has been volunteering with SAAAC in many capacities over the years), was an evening to celebrate SAAAC moms. “I wanted to organize this event because I know how hard these moms work and how much of a challenge they face on a daily basis to help their children. As a mother myself, I know how hard it is to raise and guide children, so this is my way of recognizing their amazing work”.
There are numerous studies that state caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder experience high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. There is even research out of the University of Wisconsin that reports “mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers and struggle with frequent fatigue and work interruptions.”
“Self care is incredibly important for our moms,” says Kavita Bala, a Social Worker who volunteers her evenings running parent support group discussions at SAAAC. ”These mothers spend so much time taking care of their families and go above and beyond to accommodate the exceptional needs of their children, and that can be stressful and challenging. But we tell our moms, you need to take care of yourself, before you can take care of others.”
Kavita began the night with a group discussion. She encouraged mothers to share their relaxation techniques and self-care activities. Dancing, shopping, sleeping were some of the more popular answers that elicited applause and a lot of laughter.
“It’s great to see these mothers have a good time. This is one of the few places they feel comfortable enough to let their guards down, enjoy themselves, and take some time for themselves. It’s really wonderful to see”, said SAAAC’s Case Manager, Lakshmi Solomons, who has a 22-year old son with autism. “I know how challenging it can be to raise a child with exceptional needs, but it becomes a lot easier when you have a great network of people who understand you and who support you.”
The evening’s plan then shifted to a game of charades, and typically shy and timid mothers were vaulted into the spotlight, encouraged by their friends to step outside their comfort zone and act a bit foolish. Moments of raucous laughter were followed by intense bouts of silence during which people tried to figure out what actor, animal, or TV show was being acted out.
The celebration wound down with a special performance from our young adult group from TEAM, who sang who sang Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up and the mothers were hosted to a pizza dinner.
As Vasanthy got ready to go home, she wrapped up a pizza slice in a napkin. When her son came running towards her after the session, she presented him with a slice. His eyes lit up. “He loves pizza,” she told me as both mother and son left the centre.
Photo and Video Credit: Nidun Chandrakumar