Raising a child with Down Syndrome can be difficult even under the best circumstances. Asha Kothawan had to overcome financial problems, and lack of support to raise her Down Syndrome-afflicted son, but she refused to give in, becoming an inspiration for mothers everywhere.
Down Syndrome affects close to 30,000 children every year in India alone. It causes growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability. For example, a fully grown person with Down Syndrome has the average IQ of a 10-year-old child.
There is no cure for Down Syndrome, and it is a genetic disorder. The parents of children with Down Syndrome usually do not have it. This story is about a mother’s battle against harsh circumstances and society while bringing up her child who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Constant care, support, and education are required in such situations. It takes a lot of dedication and care to bring up a child with Down Syndrome.
“Devdutta was very loved, and everyone was happy when he was born,” says Asha Kothawan. “I had two daughters before him, and he was the first baby boy.”
But Asha started to notice something strange about Devdutta through his early years. “He didn’t respond to things that most other babies did. His behaviour wasn’t normal,” says Asha. Worried sick, she started consulting with doctors to find out what ailed her son, until a doctor diagnosed him with Down Syndrome. “My doctor told me to mentally prepare myself. He warned me ,‘Your son will have the mental capacity of a child. He will be physically able, but won’t be able to go about his daily activities on his own.’”
To make matters worse, her family was completely non-supportive, “My husband started to have anxiety and panic attacks because of the plight of our Devdutta. Furthermore, I had my third girl child after this.” As a result of his poor conditions, Asha’s husband had to quit his job. With the sole breadwinner for the family now unemployed, Asha’s family was struck by financial instability too. However, she refused to lose hope, “I kept faith in God. Soon, my eldest daughter started working, and that provided me with a lot of relief.”
With the odds stacked up against her, Asha powered on.
She started speaking with parents of other children with Down Syndrome. Soon, she put Devdutta in a school for children with special needs. She worked double-time, being there for her family, dropping and picking up Devdutta from school, and giving him special attention after school as well.
She even learned speech therapy, “He had problems with speech and pronunciation. I knew he needed extra help, so I learned speech therapy myself and trained him at home.”
Slowly, Asha’s hard work and dedication started to pay off. Devdutta could soon go to school on a bus on his own, and to a large extent even take care of most of his daily needs.
As part of a CSR initiative by an MNC, Devdutta now goes to work in Pune, and is paid a decent salary. Asha smiles, “I was so happy when I knew that he was making a living for himself. It’s not enough for him to live alone and take care of himself, but it’s something!”
Asha is now 70, and all her daughters are married and lead happy lives. As for Devdutta, Asha says, “He’s 43 years old now, and I live with him. He makes me proud every day.”
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