Tag Archives: Swathi Chettipally

Siri with her family (Image by Author)

Siri’s Journey With Autism During the Pandemic

This past year has been a series of ups and downs. My daughter Siri, who has Autism and requires routine, has had to adjust to the changing world around her. Every April during Autism Awareness Month, I share my experience as Siri’s mother and our challenges, so that other parents going through something similar can resonate with our stories and see progress.

Before the pandemic arrived, Siri was busy with many activities like functional fitness, boxing, ice-skating, horse riding, and her internship at Goodwill. She is the type of girl who loves to learn new skills and looks for opportunities to keep herself busy.

Siri boxing before the pandemic (Image by Author)

Naturally, when the pandemic began, we were very worried. We knew that if Siri was bored, she would turn to food as an unhealthy crutch.

To our astonishment, on the third or fourth day into the lockdown period, Siri completely stopped eating and only sought a couple of snacks a day. With both her younger brothers back home during the pandemic, Siri started enjoying their presence in the house. She happily watched them do their zoom classes and ate what they cooked and shared with her. Eventually, we started seeing her shirts and pants fall off her shoulder and hips – all her clothes were extremely loose. We checked with her physician and she said that as long as Siri looks happy, healthy, and is sleeping throughout the night, that we should not worry.

Siri with her mother, Swathi. (Image by Author)
Siri with her mother, Swathi. (Image by Author)

She was so independent that we felt like she had already moved out. The girl who would make her presence known by being loud or pacing when bored had suddenly changed. At one point, we were concerned because we wouldn’t see her often. And when we did see her coming out of her room, she would be happy and humming a tune. She even gave spontaneous hugs to me!

Since her anxiety was at a lower level, I began to teach Siri new skills. We began with some stitching using easy, simple, and small steps. I trained her to make masks and we donated 150 to Saddleback Church in Los Angeles. Siri was so happy to cut the fabric, thread in the needle, and stitch in the way I wanted her to. Her beautiful face glowed as she was packed the masks with a handwritten card inserted in each bag. She started showing interest in drawing and painting too. Later on, we introduced Siri to zoom classes where she was able to do some Bollywood dance, artwork, and also music. 

We, along with a few more like-minded families with special needs kids are working on a community in Sonoma County. We want her, and children like her, to live full, healthy lives without needing their parents for support. In pursuit of this, Clearwater Ranch is developing a program for adults like Siri. Siri, along with three more special-needs young women, will be moving into a house on the ranch by the end of this year. 

Since Siri’s ability to understand the language is affected greatly by her Autism, we are teaching her about her move by taking her to the ranch every other week. We do drive-thru tours for potential families interested in joining us. We explain the process by showing the homes and talking about the future plans for the ranch. 

Our plans for Siri do not stop once she transitions to a new place. Fortunately, this beautiful piece of property sits on an 84acres of land where we plan to develop programs to provide skills to the special-needs residents. We plan to teach them weaving, candle and soap making, painting, farming, pottery, while continuing to focus on their fitness and recreation activities too.   

Siri’s future is bright and promising! 

Join us by following her journey via her Social Media:

FB – https://bit.ly/3deYJ59

IG – https://bit.ly/3g9gAvV 

LI – https://bit.ly/3degilK

YouTube – https://bit.ly/3uOjY3z

Siri’s online business: www.DesignsBySiri.com

Siri’s future home: www.CRanch.net


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


 

My Beautiful Siri

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.

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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!

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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.