Year in Review | 2021

Hello everyone, and happy new year! I hope that all of you had an enjoyable holiday season and are staying safe. With all that’s happened over the past year as a result of the pandemic, I found it important to reflect upon how Anjali and the entire special needs community have dealt with these newfound challenges. 

Autism and sensory friendly New Year's eve ideas for kids
Since we’re on the topic of new years, here’s a great read about how NYE can be made most enjoyable for ASD children: https://www.andnextcomesl.com/2019/12/sensory-friendly-new-years-eve-ideas-for-kids.html

Our first discussion of the year was about Sports & Special Needs. It was quite a fulfilling experience for me to share Anjali’s experience of developing a cycling routine, and how this was greatly beneficial to her sensory needs. I hope that my message, about sports and active lifestyles being a great outlet for special needs children, resonated with all of you! Witnessing my sister go through the process, helped me realize that any special needs child can be introduced to the world of sports with patient and persistent support. 

I then had the opportunity to share a special project that I learned of. My local FBLA chapter ran the well-acclaimed FBLA Disability Community Service Project. I hope that my coverage of this project spread awareness about the grass-root level work being done by the youth for the special needs community.

Autism&Us’ focus then shifted towards how the pandemic is impacting aspects of daily life for Anjali, and the special needs community as a whole. Perhaps the article closest to my heart from the year was the one about Anjali’s Experience with Hindi, and how her exposure to music during lockdown familiarized her with vocabulary from our family’s mother tongue. COVID-19 & The Special Needs Community focused more upon the health adversities facing special needs children, and their relative inability to comply with COVID regulations and precautions. I hope all of you gained an understanding of the nuances and characteristics of the challenges that fall in this bucket. Additionally, I hope that I was able to aid families facing these day-to-day problems, by familiarizing them with the vital techniques mentioned in the article. Anjali’s Academic Adventure, as suggested by the title, adopted a different lens for exploring how the pandemic altered a certain aspect of my sister’s life. The biggest takeaway that I hope we all gained from the described experiences in the article, was that perseverance and adaptation is key for helping a special needs child academically excel.  

Autism During the Coronavirus Pandemic
This fantastic graphic from VeryWell Health (https://images.app.goo.gl/2KJWsePo9xPGHNFd7) neatly summarizes a lot of the points that I’ve emphasized through my posts this year.

ASD Prevalence revisited the well-known statistic of “1 in ___ children in America are diagnosed with ASD.” Upon reviewing this statement again, and how the number itself has drastically changed, I had the intriguing experience of learning more about how the diagnostic process for ASD has rapidly changed in just a few years. I hope that this was an informative read for all of you, as it covers important context behind a statistic that often gets assigned to the identity of the special needs community. 

So that was what we discussed in 2021! Just like the year itself, my writing was very much focused upon fighting through challenges and having a productive and optimistic outlook. That’s the message I want all of us to carry into 2022, as I find it to be ideal for nurturing the unique and talented community of special needs children!

Anjali’s Academic Adventure

Hey everyone! Hope everybody is doing well. I wanted to put up this post as a quick update regarding Anjali’s experience in the past few months. Mainly I’ll be focusing on some options that we’ve come to learn of for her schooling and overall developments in her educational progress. 

First, let’s explore what I mean when I mention different options for her schooling. Anjali’s current classroom at school is categorized as “moderate to severe.” My parents believe that in order for her to improve her discipline and academic focus (more on that later), some other options have to be explored. This led to us looking into multiple charter schools, and even getting admission offers from after spending time on waitlists. Both us and Anjali’s current school are also looking into what can be done regarding organically helping Anjali improve and moving up to the “mild to moderate” class. Her teacher is very focused and fosters open communication with us regarding where she needs to improve. However, the hypothetical movement up to the “mild to moderate” class can only happen if Anjali is able to maintain a level of focus and capability in front of the faculty responsible for evaluating her. 

What made us reach this point of thinking about changing Anjali’s classroom environment? The honest answer is regression. Loss of in-person ABA therapy over the last 6 months was a huge hit to Anjali’s level of focus, progress with her sensory issues, and to the academic knowledge that a weekly therapy schedule had implemented in her. We try our best to create a schedule of academic work with her, which includes a great deal of practice worksheets from Kumon. However, it’s hard to replicate a routine and class-like environment, in which Anjali understands that a certain level of focus is expected from her. 

Where do I see all of this developing or heading to? As for Anjali’s classroom environment, I’d hope for things to work out at her current school. This is especially due to both my mother and Anjali’s current teacher being quite focused upon the steps necessary for Anjali to improve in a way that warrants her being moved up a one level. As for her regression regarding academic work, I believe that it is only a matter of time till she improves in this area. The classroom environment of the upcoming in-person school year, with multiple teachers around her, will eventually gear her back towards being able to control her energy more and once again get her accustomed to the routine of work that she had previously tackled with ease. 

Those were all the updates for now. I hope that anyone in a similar boat as us can utilize this overview of our experience in order to pick up some nuggets regarding how to earnestly help the academic situation of their special needs child. 

Anjali’s Experience With Hindi

Hello everyone! Hope everyone is staying safe during the pandemic as the summer approaches. I wanted to post a quick update for how Anjali is doing during these spring months, and something special that we’ve learned about her during this lockdown time period. To be more specific, we’ve noticed patterns of Anjali picking up a little knowledge in the language of Hindi!

Let’s start with some context. Our family has always spoken both English and our mother tongue of Hindi. However with Anjali, since instructions are already not easy to convey to her, we have always stuck to speaking in English. This is what we thought would be best for her, since it would be consistent with the language that she hears from her therapists and school teachers as well. However, since our entire family was home most of the time during lockdown, we learned about Anjali’s familiarity with the Hindi language!

Perhaps the biggest factor for this may be her connection to music. In my previous post, Musical Magic, I covered how Anjali surprised us all by hearing certain songs a few times and then later humming or singing parts of those songs during her free time. These include a lot of Hindi melodies as well, and the chorus of these songs may have introduced Anjali to a few Hindi words. Another major factor for Anjali picking up these Hindi words, is all of us, since we occasionally forget to use English when giving instructions to Anjali. These instances typically involve my mother, who may ask Anjali to sit properly at the dinner table in Hindi or other basic instructions in Hindi instead of English. To be clear, Anjali doesn’t truly understand the meaning behind the mass majority of Hindi phrases. However, it is still interesting to see that she understood certain words of the language, and we are excited to see if we can develop this linguistic base to increase her knowledge in Hindi. 

So what can we learn from this? I think the important takeaway is that bilingual families shouldn’t entirely rule out introducing a second language to their special needs child. As was the case for Anjali, the child may learn a few phrases and keywords from the language being used by others in the household. Of course, it is important to consistently use the same language that is used by instructors of the special needs child. However, occasional usage of a second language may help such children develop a base of phrases and key words, which are useful for eventually teaching any special needs child the unique ability of speaking a second language!