I am Siri’s mother and this is her story. Siri was diagnosed with autism when she turned three in San Francisco, back in 1995.
Siri received intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment soon after her diagnosis for 40 hours each day for five days a week. Her biggest challenge was communication and with this treatment Siri quickly started showing improvement and it got easier to communicate with her and hence to manage with her.
Siri has two typically growing younger brothers Vamsi and Kiran.
When Siri turned 22 years old and was done with her school, there were no appropriate programs for her in our neighborhood and so she began to spend most of her time at home. At about the same time my middle child, her younger brother Vamsi, went into army training.
Those were difficult days for me since I desperately missed my son. He was away for long period with limited communication.
Siri missed her brother a lot and would often say “let’s go pick up Vamsi at the airport.” She believed that her brother was still at the airport where we had left him.
Those days when Kiran left for school, we’d leave the house and walk for some time and perhaps buy a sandwich and go to the Bayshore Trail to watch planes land and take off while having lunch and come back home just before Kiran came back from school.
I was a member of an Army group on Facebook and one of the members posted saying that there were some soldiers who needed some encouragement and a great need for Care Packages (Halls mints, ear buds, small tooth paste and brush, comb, ointment for fungus, deodorant, nail clippers, a blank post card …). I had Siri make the list and we would go to drug stores to pick up the items.
On the way home from the drug stores we’d stop by at the post office and buy flat boxes.
I’d take one cardboard and give Siri the other one and we’d fold the first flap on the right and then the one on the left. Then turn it around and do the same on the other side. In this way, I showed Siri how to make a box.
Then Siri would open up the packages we bought and she learned to separate the items and pack a few of this and a few of that in each box.
During our packing process Siri would always be happy and sometimes very giggly. After the boxes were arranged the way I had them in the sample box, I asked Siri to write a verse from the Holy Bible on one side, while on the other side I wrote a letter to the soldiers.
In every letter, I told the soldiers that the packages were prepared by my daughter who has autism. Without fail, they all replied back to Siri complimenting her on her handwriting. Indeed, Siri does have very beautiful handwriting. Siri would break into smiles as she read the replies from the soldiers.
One day, I wondered if Siri would be interested in making jewelry since she was (and is) always shopping at Claire’s at the mall. I purchased lots of beads in different shapes, colors and sizes and asked her to take them off the strings. She learned to separate the beads by shapes, and then later by color and finally by size.
With some help from Youtube, I taught Siri how to make simple ear rings. I purchased two sets of pliers and I gave her one set while I had one in my hands. I put a T-pin, few beads and a hook in front of her and I told her to hold the T-pin and put one bead through the pin while I was doing the same and then told her to take the nose plier and make a loop. And SHE DID IT!
And that was the first step of the rest of her successful journey. Just the other day she came home and asked to make a bracelet with red beads which she did on her own. Pretty soon she will be able to do them all independently.
A song about her life is going to be released on Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and is to be sung by the famous singer Anjana Sowmya.
Siri loves to go shopping, travel, swimming, walking, biking, ice-skating, singing, dressing up, Bollywood dancing and cooking too. She takes care of herself and also helps in the house when she is in the mood.
She has successfully sold her hand-made jewelry at several events. Her jewelry is sold online at www.DesignsBySiri.com and she also has a Facebook page called “Designs By Siri.” Check it out.
I am Swathi Chettipally, a radio host of www.Navodayam.org, and a mom to my three beautiful children. Siri my eldest special needs daughter, Vamsi an Army soldier, Kiran a high school kid. Their dad is an ER physician. This is my beautiful world.