Sudhanshu Grover is a 48 year old mother of two living in Ghaziabad. She has a Master’s in Biochemistry and worked with a reputed pharmaceutical company in Baroda, the place where she grew up, and eventually got married.
Shortly after her marriage, Sudhanshu and her husband were elated to find that they were going to become parents of twins. In 1997 she gave birth to twin sons Drishaan and Sunny. But, when they were around 2 years old, she noticed her younger son banging his head on a pillow, and the crying incessantly – a behaviour that soon became a pattern. To compound her worries, the twins still hadn’t learned to talk. She brushed it aside, initially, telling herself it would pass; that every child grows at their own pace. But on the day of their third birthday, the boys were diagnosed with autism – a disorder that she and her family never heard about.
That night, she cried herself to sleep. But, as the sun rose the following day, she realised that she could not afford to be borne down by the weight of her heavy heart. Her sons needed her now more than ever and she had to think about how, as a mother, she could give her sons the best life possible.
Driven by this resolve, Sudhanshu began looking for services for autistic children around Gujarat. She went door to door looking for help, but the city had close to no options for the care and support of differently-abled children. Determined not to give up, she went to Mumbai – the city where her children were first diagnosed. However, here too, her efforts were in vain.
She finally came to Delhi, accompanied by her father and two young sons, where she had been referred to an organisation that worked towards autistic children’s development. Within months of moving to the capital, Sudhanshu realised that going back to Baroda was not going to be an option. The services and training her sons needed were only available in Delhi. Even as a parent, she realised how important it was that she understand her sons and raise them without making them feel incomplete in anyway. She joined a diploma course at Action for Autism in Delhi – the only organisation at that time which specifically addressed this topic.
With this clarity to guide her, Sudhanshu took one of the biggest decisions of her life: she quit her job at the pharmaceutical company in Baroda moved to Delhi permanently, holding on to the hope that one day her children will not be seen as a liability to anybody. Her husband, who at the time was the sole breadwinner of the family, was unable to accompany them.
Moving to a new city as a single mother came with its own unique set of challenges. Sudhanshu and her sons shifted into a small flat, owned by her aunt an hour and a half away from the autism training center. She bought herself a two-wheeler and took her sons to the training centre every morning, tying one with a dupatta to her back and the other in the front.
With time, her efforts were rewarded. Having spent a few years in the training centre, her elder son began to attend a regular school. Here, he learned to talk and aced his studies. He was particularly good at mathematics and physics, and could solve problems that his classmates could not. Her younger son never developed speech, but he learned to communicate using his hands and objects, and was mostly self-sufficient.
Today, Sudhanshu’s elder son is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Meerut, while her younger son is enrolled in a vocational training course in Action for Autism. Both boys love their mother dearly and support her work at home. After a few years of training with Action for Autism, Sudhanshu took up a job at the organisation, where she works as the head of educational services today.
Sudhanshu’s resilience and undying determination allowed her sons to live freely. The city gave her and her husband hope, and is a gift to their children. It gave them the support they needed to overcome what seemed insurmountable. For Sudhanshu, the provisions that Delhi has for differently-abled people are responsible for having given her two sons their independence. In the eighteen years that she has spent living in the city, she has seen changes in people’s attitude towards differently-abled people. According to her, people are more aware of autism today thanks to the increase in support facilities and legislative reforms that have included autism under the Disability Rights Act bringing it into the public eye. As the city grows, her dedication and motivation towards spreading autism awareness never wavers.