#BeingMom - What makes Nalini Srivastava such a power mom?
In our series #BeingMom, we bring you the story of Nalini Srivastava. This Lucknow-based teacher has emerged as a ray of hope and support for many families with children on the autism spectrum.
Nalini Srivastava openness is her biggest strength. It's evident in her words and expressions, be it on a YouTube channel under her name, newspaper articles, blogs, or on WhatsApp groups of parents with children on the autism spectrum. It's that quality that enabled her to come together and face the world when son Kabir Nair was diagnosed with autism at the age of two-and-a-half years.
Unlike many other families, Nalini and her husband were lucky as Kabir was diagnosed rather early.
"Initially we thought it was a hearing disability', says Nalini. 'We lived in Pune at the time and were told a developmental paediatrician right away, who diagnosed Kabir with autism. At first, I went blank, but started therapy immediately. At the age of five, Kabir was formally diagnosed with moderate autism. His intelligence was not affected, the issues were more emotional and sensory-related.
Having witnessed a child with non-verbal autism in her family, Nalini was not entirely taken aback. Her family stepped in with total support, which helped overcome the utter lack of empathy from her in-laws'. "From my husband's side, no one has kept in touch after Kabir's diagnosis 13 years ago. They are non-existent as far as I am concerned, she says.
But it was the hostility from the world at large that was harder to keep at bay.
We lived in a housing society in Pune which was very unwelcoming and cold to my son. They reacted very strongly to Kabir and would not allow us to attend the building Ganpati functions. Kabir was not invited to birthday parties either. I realized then that while Pune may have the facilities, awareness was low. - Nalini Srivastava, Kabir's mother
Nalini was not a person to sit by quietly and let the world judge her son. She came back to Lucknow to her parents and sister, while her husband took up a job abroad to bear the load of the household expenses so Nalini could devote herself to Kabir. Nalini, meanwhile, prepared to battle society at large.
"I faced a lot of hostility when I would go to the market with my son. People would stare when he had a meltdown and I would bluntly tell them 'if you can't help, don't stare'. She even designed pamphlets on autism awareness to distribute to the public.
Sister Shalini Nigam marvels at her strength and spirit. 'It was not easy but Nalini has done great job. She was very calm and collected right through Kabir's diagnosis and focused on his speech therapy and motor skills. He is 13 years old and is still prone to meltdowns, but she always handles him with patience and understanding.
Apart from raising her teenage son virtually singlehandedly, Nalini has also emerged as a beacon of support for parents with kids on the autism spectrum. She holds workshops to build awareness, something that is still rather low.
"The main challenge is that parents don't want to accept, she says. I have many parents tell me things like don't tag me on autism pieces because my relatives don't know. I get told often that 'why do you say you son has autism, just don't talk about it'.
Nalini's advice to parents is to be openminded and accept their child. "You have to accept your child because how else do you expect society to do that?
Nallni, who once had an active working life, is picking up those pieces of her personality as well. "I resumed work as a teacher after he finished Class 1. For seven years, I was dedicated to raising him and those were tough times.
But one role that remains precious is that of empowering other parents with the information and skills needed to enable their children, not hold them back. It is this quality in her sister that Shalini finds most remarkable. "Nalini helps so many mothers, including those who live abroad. They are all a part of her group and they share information and tips.
OTHER STORIES IN THE #BEING MOM SERIES: