Pune: Years of patience, consistency and faith in special children fructified into endless happiness for these parents. Though marks are just numbers, science stream students Akshay Shanbhag (95.6 pc), Shardul Patil (75 pc), Daksh Kanoria (74.6 pc) scored exemplary marks while making their weakness their strength.
An autistic child
Akshay has secured second position in his school and has been preparing to pursue his higher education in IISER, Pune. Akshay had ranked second in the country under persons with disabilities (PwDs) category in Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (KVPY) at his first attempt and got direct admission in IISER, “I have been a mathematics and computer science enthusiast since childhood. So I wish to become a scientist in field of physics, chemistry, mathematics or computer science,” said Akshay.
Geeta Shanbhag (mother), had first learned about Akshay’s condition when he was 1.8 years old. “Akshay has speech disability. His play school teachers had informed us that he would never respond to them. Initially, we thought he had hearing problems, however later we got to know that Akshay is an autistic child,” said Geeta. Her struggle to bring her child into the mainstream began since then. Geeta would take personal therapies and take up exercises with Akshay and report about each development to her psychologists. Only after his Std X exam, Geeta felt that she should pursue some course for herself, and now she has started working with a city-based NGO.
From a very young age, Akshay was a maths genius. “At the age of 2.5 years, if asked when will a particular date for example January 12, 2019 fall, he could calculate within few minutes and tell the right day. He had started reading encyclopedias at three years of age,” said Geeta.
Autism is a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterised by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.
For Shardul and Daksh, words and languages could never make sense.
Daksh who has dyslexia and attention deficit disorder (ADD) wants to become a coder and pursue higher education in computer science or engineering. Although, words have been alien for him, technological codes have been his favourite language. “I could never score in languages like Hindi and Marathi till Std XIII. It was exempted in IX and X when I replaced it with computer science. Initially, I would doubt myself and have a kind of peer pressure to excel like others but my parents and teachers told me that I did not have to compete with anyone. This built my confidence,” said Daksh.
Jyoti Kanoria, (mother) said, “He was in Std III when we understood Daksh has dyslexia. He could never remember any spelling. Then he started taking remedy education which he continued till Std IX. However, for us marks was never a criteria. We would always tell him to concentrate on the concepts than obtaining marks. Even when he stumbled in making correct sentence or saying right spellings in public, we assured him that it was fine there is no harm in being different,” said Jyoti.
Even for Parineeta Patil, it was a challenge to console her son Shardul that he is unique. “Shardul had to change several hobby classes in his childhood, because no teacher would understand why he could not cope with others. Guitar was his favourite hobby but unfortunately, he discontinued because of the isolation he would face in these classes. Moreover, his biggest disappointment was in Std X, when he was unhappy with his score of 82 per cent. He didn’t have a dyslexia certificate, therefore he felt, he could have scored better otherwise,” said Parineeta.
“He would only say that he wrote correct answers but lost marks because of spelling and handwriting. It was difficult to boost his confidence and cheer him up for not being able to score like others, as back in schools, his teachers never considered his condition, rather were unaware about dyslexia,” said Parineeta.
Dyslexia is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.