By NOUMAN KHALIL
Mississauga’s Yojna Gupta and Anil Puri didn’t know their son was autistic until his fourth birthday, and the delayed diagnosis and lack of knowledge created tough times.
“It was the biggest change in our lives,” said Gupta.
Avnish was diagnosed with PDD (pervasive development disorders) at age 4, and didn’t start talking until the age of 5. Once diagnosed, they did everything they could to develop and improve their son’s intellectual abilities.
Today — 13 years later — 17-year-old Avnish, a Grade 12 student at West Credit Secondary School, works at Boston Pizza, makes his own lunch, takes the bus and goes grocery shopping without any hassle. Moreover, he also obtained his G1 driver’s license and is now preparing for his G2 road test.
Gupta praised teachers for playing a major role in improving Avnish’s intellectual abilities.
“One day, when Avnish was in Grade 9, his teacher surprised us when she said ‘Avnish is an artist’ … that was a happy moment for us,” said Gupta.
Since 2012, Avnish has painted numerous paintings. One of Avnish’s paintings was also selected for Geneva Centre for Autism Foundation’s World Autism Day e-card (link for website https://51757.thankyou4caring.org/SendaneCard).
Inspired by his work, Gupta and Puri are spearheading a one-of-a-kind event, titled “Gallery of Inspiration”, which aims to spread awareness about autism and encourage young artists with autism to showcase their work.
“We are lining up young artists to showcase their talents in music and other fields,” said Puri. “The goal is to encourage them and to promote community awareness and educate people about autism.
He said so far visual arts and piano performances have been confirmed, but they are looking for more diversified talents.
The event will be held May 17 at the BMO Hall of Living Arts Centre in Mississauga.
Puri said several organizations, including Autism Ontario, Autism Speaks, Geneva Centre for Autism Foundation, ErinoakKids Centre, The Bennett Edge, Loblaws and TD Bank, and many parents have come forward to support the event.
April is the National Autism Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to spread awareness and discuss issues related to autism, while April 2 is marked as World Autism Awareness Day.
In Canada, statistics show one in 88 children is being diagnosed with autism every year.
“We didn’t know about autism until Avnish turned four. It was the time when not a single person in our family was aware of autism,” said Puri. “It was difficult to accept, but we started to educate ourselves.”
He said the event will offer a support system for parents, especially those with newly-diagnosed children, because the first step — acceptance — is extremely difficult.
“Once parents accept the reality then it’s easy to go,” said Puri. “If I say cancer, everyone can pick up what it means. But if I say autism, most people will not understand. It means we still need to create awareness about it. We must educate people how to deal with it. How does it affect the child and his/her family? Parents should know about the strengths and weaknesses of the child … so actually there are a lot of things that we need to bring forward.”
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By NOUMAN KHALIL