This mother has waited for the ‘special day’ to come for as long as she can remember.
Keerthana Shenoy is excited to say the least as her 18-year-old non-verbal autistic son is competing at the Special Olympics World Games 2019 being held in Abu Dhabi.
Sujith was five when he first learnt to roller-skate in Bangalore, India and today he is a Special Olympics athlete. He — the only child of his parents — will compete in the roller skating category at the special event next week.
Naturally, his family is overjoyed with Sujith’s accomplishment, not to mention immensely proud of his success so far.
“We are elated to say the least. It has been some hard work and determination that has brought him this far,” gushed his mother Keerthana.
“Sujith has always been an active child. When he was young I had to put him in a number of sports activities to channel his abundant physical energy. He plays a number of sports like baseball, tennis, football, horse-riding. Sujith also loves to surf and when he wants to relax a little, he does art and craft.”
Changing careers made a huge difference
In many ways Sujith's selection into the Special Olympics is a personal achievement for Keerthana as well.
An engineer by profession, Keerthana changed her entire career around to help her son lead a good life.
“My father who is a paediatrician identified Sujith was autistic when he was around a year and a half. My life changed completely. I had no clue how to deal with a child with autism. So I did a one year diploma course in special education in autism from Karnataka Parents’ Association for Mentally Retarded Citizens (KPAMRC) in Bangalore, India.
At that time I did it only to understand Sujith better and train him to lead a better life. After moving to Dubai in 2007, I did additional training in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and another one in Registered Behaviour Technician (RBT). I am currently doing a certification course in Board Certified Assistant Behaviour Analyst (BCABA)."
How her special training helped Sujith
“A mother can never go wrong when it comes to her child. So I would think the step I took to change my line of profession greatly helped him and our bonding. I was able to understand my son better, his needs, moods and I learnt to deal with his condition much better. This also meant our bonding improved and slowly I was able to harness his energy into something concrete,” said Keerthana, now practicing in Dubai as a freelance behaviour therapist .
She is quick to add that he has been training for the competition since July last year. “He is great in rolling skating, but has to learn to follow the rules. For example if it is a three lap race, he has to understand that it has to be done in this time. I don’t know if he understands his achievement, but we sure are proud of him.”
Keerthana said the organising committee contacted her last July informing Sujith had been shortlisted for the race. “I am very grateful to the Special Olympics team for recognising Sujith’s talent in skating. He can also skip with his skates on, Sujith is that good. He has given several skating performances at the Indian consulate and Dubai schools as well,” the proud mother said.
She added: “UAE is best place for people of determination and their families. There is a lot of public awareness on how to deal with people of determination and much is being done to include them into mainstream society. They are given a lot of respect and referred to as the determined ones which is extremely encouraging. There are benefits too. The UAE government has ensured people of determination don’t pay for salik or any public transportation. Entry into parks and public facilities are free. I feel very lucky to live in the UAE with a child who is a person of determination.”
A host of celebrities and sporting icons will join People of Determination from around the world as they showcase their skills at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, to be held from March 14 to 21.