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As a mother of three beautiful children, Siri, Vamsi, and Kiran, shelter-in-place has been a time to find positivity in the difficult moments. While Vamsi and Kiran are in college, my eldest daughter Siri never left home. 

This past April 2, 2020 was Autism Awareness Day and a few weeks into the ongoing pandemic frenzy. Initially, I couldn’t help but think that this shelter-in-place should come with more help for moms – especially for those that have children with disabilities.

Siri in a dress she made herself.

Siri was diagnosed with Autism when she was 3 years old.

Before shelter-in-place, Siri was involved in several activities: ice-skating, exercising, boxing, fitness dancing, ABA therapy, working at Goodwill, and attending a day program. For the past six months, I have accompanied Siri to all her activities except her day program. Since most of them are fitness-oriented, she was showing considerable improvement in handling her emotions, and so we gradually tapered her medications for anxiety.  

Around the time when shelter-in-place was declared, Siri was at the peak of her fitness regime, and we were approaching zero medications. But, now, since all her outdoor activities are inaccessible, I feared we might have to start her medications again.

To my surprise, there was no necessity to bring her medications back. Furthermore, she got adjusted to the new schedule within a couple of days. She noticed that her brothers were at home and she adapted to the new lifestyle of no outdoor activities.

On the Autism spectrum, my daughter’s main challenge is understanding language; Siri cannot communicate much. For example, if we tell her why she cannot go out, she may not understand or might misunderstand, and her anxiety will increase since she cannot ask clarifying questions. My husband and I have decided to let her learn by herself, letting her observe her environment.

Siri’s jewelry.

Siri keeps herself busy by working on her online jewelry making business, which she started 5 years ago. What she lacks in her ability to communicate, she more than surpasses in her fine motor skills.

Currently, in this period of shelter-in-place, I am teaching Siri to stitch masks for the COVID-19 workers and once the SIP is lifted, I have plans to teach her horse riding, weaving, soap, and candle making. Autism doesn’t have to be a barrier. It requires creative ways of teaching. Siri can learn any new skill if taught the way she understands. Small and simple steps. 

Considering that I regularly make decisions for her and motivate her as well, it often worries me, will she be able to manage without me? Nevertheless, during this shelter-in-place, the silver lining is that Siri is gradually becoming independent and is without her medications. These are the small assurances that remind me that, even without me, Siri will emerge much stronger, confident, and better than what she is today.

My family wants to share our story as a South Asian, immigrant family confronting Autism. It has been a unique and challenging journey.

If you’re interested in helping us fund the documentary, you can donate to our kickstarter campaign.

You can find the amazing work Siri is doing on her website.

Swathi Chettipally is a devoted mother and an Autism advocate. Find more about her work with Siri on pinterest, instagram, and youtube.

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