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"Grecco gestures & Nickollas moments" - Life lessons about raising children with disabilities

February 3, 2019

A heartwarming story that made headlines around the world recently was that of a Brazilian mom out with her 12-year-old son enjoying a game of football. Everyone was moved by the sight of Silvia Grecco explaining every single moment to son Nickollas, who is blind and has autism.

Grecco, who is mad about football, is determined that her son gets to enjoy the game as much, regardless of his disability.

To the world at large, a person with a disability is defined by his or her limitations; they are looked at through the lens of the things they cannot do or enjoy. It's a mindset that can be discouraging, demoralizing even, and is often the hardest battle to fight.

If there is one set of warriors people with disabilities can count on to fight this battle, it's their parents and siblings, as the Brazilian mom showed us. Most people looking at Nickollas would wonder what he was doing at that game, but Grecco showed the world how enjoyment, passion and engagement can happen for anyone. And that the barriers really lie in our minds.

Everyone with a disability has a story to share about their own set of warriors. People who refused to let them drown in the bucket of things they were told they could not do. Instead, they show them every day how they CAN.

For Amar Jain, a visually impaired lawyer, the earliest such memory dates back to his childhood, when he wanted to know what the map of India looked like. There were no tactile maps in his school and he wanted to understand boundaries and locations of states.

I wanted to know what the geographical map of India looked like and I remember my parents created a map of India for me using wool, like the kind we use for sweaters, so I was able to feel and understand how the geography of India is spread out. - Amar Jain, Lawyer & Disability rights advocate

This was just one of the many things his parents did, and still do, to bring aspects of the world he cannot see, come alive in other ways.

"I love to visit museums and I always go with my dad because he reads out what is written there, even details about who the architect was and the history", says Jain. "I have visited many forts and museums across Rajasthan with my dad because he knows exactly how to describe them the way I like it".

For Anupama Bakhshi, Brazilian mom Greccco not just raises the bar for fellow moms, but does much more.

"When Grecco acquires the avatar of a soccer match commentator for her blind son, she raises the bar for the fellow moms, yes, inspires, yes and shows how the community around will believe in a sincere dream because the mother emphatically does yes, but what she does for Nickollas is indescribable. She creates the priceless 'Nickollas moment', of a commitment that no experience, no feeling and no avenue will go unexplored…simply because there is no reason it should".

As mom to 18-year-old Pranav, who has autism, Bakhshi lives such moments every single day. Pranav's 'Nickollas moment' came when he made his debut on the professional ramp walk circuit at the Benetton AW'19 Fashion Show, a dream he had long cherished.

As Ruchika Thakkar Sethi, mom to teenager with an intellectual disorder, puts it, "If I have the skill sets and tenacity to share, then a child like her can experience the same thrill and gush of emotion".

Sethi's daughter, who is 17 years old, is unable to participate in the rites of passage typical to her age. "I see her watching girls and boys and I know she wants to experience some of those things, like dressing up". She occasionally takes her daughter to beauty centres at malls and asks the consultants there to do make up trials. "I ask them to dab a little blusher or eye shadow so she gets a feel of it and enjoys some of those experiences".

This kind of unstinting support and love goes a long way in defining the child's own attitudes and choices going ahead. For Vineet Saraiwala, deputy manager with Future Group Retail and a visually impaired marathoner, it was his uncle's quiet, steadfast support during runs that helped him shake off his own uncertainties.

"For him, it was just two runners enjoying the practise, it had nothing to do with my disability. He told me to run freely without any worry of the vehicles, commuters or safety risk. I just believed in him and with all the courage, confidence and determination, started my journey into marathons. For most of activities, trust from family is what initiates confidence and disability disappears from the scene", says Saraiwala.

Trust and the vision of the community around, points out Bakhshi. "It requires the faith of the right people at the right time. Above all, it requires a belief in the commitment of a mother. To those who have the time, the space and the sensitivity to scaffold and support it, may your brood increase for you hold the key to unravelling unparalleled magic!"

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