In the midst of winter in 2014, my son - Advay was born and along with him a mother was born for the first time as well.
Advay was expected to reach his developmental milestones within an expected time frame but he showed signs of delay at 15 months and the doctors kept monitoring him at regular intervals for the next 1.5 years. He was finally diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. We had no choice but to be brave enough to face the challenges that lay ahead of us. Our lives changed completely post-diagnosis. We learnt with time what autism meant. The only way to support our child was to find various state-sponsored therapies in Switzerland.
Advay was enrolled for speech therapy, play therapy and occupational therapy to enhance his cognitive abilities and communication skills. We were curious enough to identify a team of experienced therapists who would help our son have a more independent future. A child with special needs brings about a drastic change in one‘s lifestyle and social scenario. Ours was no different. As responsible parents, we made a conscious decision to reach out to support groups on social media and also in our vicinity. We reached out to an organization in Basel which specializes in early intervention and residential therapy for autism for the entire family. We also prioritized our social interaction with friends who were flexible enough to include us in their schedule. We made a choice against social alienation and decided to embrace the new change wholeheartedly.
Henceforth, autism has been a cause very close to my heart and I chose to be vocal about it. I started writing articles about my daily struggles with it and wanted to spread awareness about early intervention to those affected by it and also to those who weren’t associated with it. I want people who are not facing the struggles related with autism to be more empathetic towards those who are going through these challenges every single day. Recently, I came to know that the brand Protsaah - the brainchild of my friend Saloni Duggal - has decided to support the foundation Stiftung Schweizerische Schule für Blindenführhunde. This non-profit foundation located at Allschwil provides Autism Service Dogs to the affected individuals and families in Switzerland.
The Labrador Retriever Dogs are professionally trained at the foundation depending on the program (autism service dog, guide dog or assistance dog) for 6-9 months. They have proven to be the best play buddies to an autistic individual besides providing safety and comfort. Mr. Gèrard Guye, Chair of Management, Head Administration and PR at the foundation elaborates more on the importance of why these services are essential for an autistic individual, “An autism service dog has similar duties to that of a guide dog to the blind. Children who have difficulty in communicating, find in their dog a patient listener. With an autism service dog at his or her side the child will repeatedly find opportunities for contact without being the centre of attention. On a specific command ‘ponte’ the dog lies over the legs of a sitting person to calm him or her down.”
This year, Protsaah has decided to donate 10% of its sales during the Autism Awareness Month in April to the Dogs for Autism Foundation. I would urge everyone to support these wonderful creatures by purchasing a beautiful Protsaah product which embodies an equally noble thought.
Protsaah defines the spirit of being brave, curious and conscious and literally translates as “to give courage” or Mut zu geben in German. It focuses on empowering artisans caught up in the conflict zones. In the spirit of these values, I instantly became one of Protsaah‘s early customers and I strongly believe that a small purchase can have a big impact on the lives of the less fortunate.
Therefore, I am hopeful of a society in the future where people are brave enough to talk about autism, are curious enough to understand that it is not a “disease” but a spectrum and are conscious enough to support children and families affected by it. This approach would really help autism break barriers between individuals and create room for more positivity, progress and a prodigious future.
About our special guest author:
Vantika Singh is the mother of a 5-year-old boy. She started her career as a print media journalist at a Delhi-based corporate magazine and later moved to Mumbai as the Communications Head at Deloitte Consulting India Pvt. Ltd. Vantika is currently based in Zurich and has recently co-founded Magic Dots Events.