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#BeingMom - 'I am..where I was always meant to be' - My Take by Nanditha Shashikanth

In #BeingMom, we bring to you, in her own words, the inspiring story of Nanditha Shashikanth, who changed career tracks after her son was diagnosed with developmental delay. In enabling her own child, Nanditha went on to find a way to empower hundreds of children with disabilities.

I was born and educated in Bangalore and was a university rank holder. I later switched to a career in special education for my son. After my diploma in special education, I pursued Master in Psychology.

My son, Rithvikk, 15, has Global Developmental Delay, the result of my gynaecologist's negligence, who could not detect the child was in distress even when we repeatedly insisted something was wrong. He was a full-term baby, low-birth weight with delayed development. My paediatrician helped us understand the problems we might face later on with our son. He guided us all along to get the required help my son needed. We were young parents with no clue about what was being told to us, so we took it one day at a time.

Rithvikk had a lot of health issues after birth, would cry all night, had low immunity and was not gaining weight. He had a lot of hospitalisations during the first five years. My husband and I were working day and night to pay for medical expenses and therapies. It was very stressful to manage the finances and a hyperactive child.

As parents we are never prepared for this kind of a shock and it was a very difficult phase for us. The usual questions came up again and again - why me, what is his future like, will situations change, will he get better, are we doing our best…??. All we did then, was to look back and see how far we have come.

At first, it seemed like an impossible task. Those long nights, wet pillows, looks on the faces of people, blame game… seemed like an endless abyss. But if there is one thing we held on to was our perseverance and hope. My parents were a blessing in disguise. If it weren't for them, we would not have come this far. It is very important family members understand your situation and come forward to help. (They) treated my son like any other child, no one saw him as a different person. We spoke, played and did everything as we would do with a neuro-typical kid.

He is a smart child from the beginning, his difficulties are speech and motor skills alone. He loves travelling and is excited to see new places. He is a warm, compassionate child, who loves being around people.

As parents, we still have apprehensions about his future but we have always appreciated him in the present. Every little milestone that Rithvikk achieves is celebrated in our family. It gave us a different perspective about children.

In early 2000, there was not much available for children with special needs. We were at the mercy of doctors and schools as there was no Internet to look up for resources. We were blindsided. We changed many schools for Rithvikk in his early learning years as they had no facilitators or even an understanding of the needs of kids with special needs. When Rithvikk was around three years old, he started attending a special program for CWSN in a pre-school. All parents were promised a lot by the school founder but when they failed to deliver, we decided to confront her.

Turning point

She, in a very casual manner, agreed that they could not deliver but what struck me was what she said to all of us -If you parents can't be proactive and do something for your own kid, do not come to me demanding explanations. It was that moment when I decided that I am the one who can help my kid, no one else. That day I pulled Rithvikk out of the school and started looking towards special education for myself.

I quit my corporate career and ventured into special education. I started volunteering in special schools. I went on to acquire a diploma in special education from a reputed institute in Bangalore. After working in a couple of regular schools, I realised that I could help more kids if I had something of my own Thus, in 2012, my husband and I started Kidsville Academy, now Kidsvlle Educational Trust in 2019.

It is our vision to have a school where we could support children like our son without any bias. We started as a small inclusive pre-school. We provided all support therapies. Over those five years we catered to more than 100 children, most of whom are still in touch with us, sharing their progress. We cater to children with neuro-cognitive disabilities like Autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, Learning Disability, Down 's syndrome, cerebral palsy, and Communication Disorder.

This year we have formed a trust to receive funding and CSR from corporates. We are now KIDSVLLE Educational Trust. Our vision is to provide quality education to CWSN at a low-cost so all the parents can have access to quality education without having to worry about the cost. We want to make CWSN socially acceptable and financially independent.

We take in children at their current functioning level. We believe in giving a fair opportunity to all children instead of setting a benchmark. Most of our students and parents are happy and continue to support us till date.

Nothing could be more rewarding than a smile on a child's face when you see them every morning. "Where I am is probably "where I was always meant to be. Even today all the kids are fond of me. I am happy that in addition to my son, I am able to help many other kids and their parents.

I always tell this to parents, take your time to accept your child with special needs, but do your duty and give them the support they seek. When you have a child with special needs you begin to appreciate every child and their achievements. Most importantly, "Empower yourselves because nobody knows your child better than you.

BE HAPPY, GUILT FREE…just take one day at a time. Patience and perseverance along with the right professional guidance will help you sail through this. To quote Stephen Hawkins - "However difficult life may seem, there is always something that we can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up.

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