My son Rithik is one of the greatest blessings in my life. He is innocent and completely pure at heart.
Rithik is now 23. When he was 12, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), coupled with lower than normal IQ.
I must admit that the early years were not easy. Growing up, Rithik could not sit still and was easily distracted. It was difficult to take him out to social gatherings as people who didn’t understand his condition would often label him a naughty child. So most of the time, I would stay home with him.
He had multiple learning issues in school, including problems in speech, writing, spelling, and reading. He struggled to copy anything from the board. Often, he was asked to leave the classroom because he was not able to concentrate and would distract other children. We moved from school to school, desperate for a solution, and ended up changing schools at least ten times.
As a child, Rithik was never interested in conventional toys, be it cars, guns or action figures. He used to be fascinated by tools like screwdrivers and utensils. He would come into the kitchen while I was preparing lunch or dinner and play with kitchen utensils.
Once, while we were at a clinic, Rithik ran to a nearby cabinet, took out a screwdriver and removed the head-rest of the chair I was sitting on while I was speaking to the doctor. Fortunately, the doctor was patient and kind and asked him politely if he could put the head-rest back on. To my surprise, he didn’t throw a tantrum and obediently did it.
I’ve always been proud of the fact that Rithik is unique and different. I’ve never tried to hide his condition. In fact, the more I spoke about him to others, the more it helped me find suitable resources for his treatment as people would refer me to relevant contacts.
I’ve been asked if bringing up Rithik as a single parent is tough. My answer has been consistent – that Rithik has brought nothing but joy to my life. As his only caregiver, he gives me all his attention and love. I have always tried my best to teach him the right values in life because I know that what I say and think mean the world to him.
I’ve had my moments of self-doubt, though.
When Rithik was about nine months old, he rolled over and fell off the bed onto the floor. I was shocked to find that his skin had turned a sickly shade of blue, and his limbs were stiff as if he has suffered some kind of an attack. As I spoke to more doctors over the years, I questioned whether he was born with ADHD and low IQ, or whether his condition was caused by that fall. If I can ever go back in time to change anything in my life, I would choose to go back to that moment in time.
For Rithik’s sake, I know I must not dwell on things beyond my control and keep moving forward. Over the years, I realized that I needed to channel his energy in a constructive and healthy way.
Rithik has always shown a keen interest in sports – cricket in particular. When he was about eight, I enrolled him in a cricket academy. It usually takes a child about two years to learn the basics of cricket. It took Rithik four to five years. But it was worth the wait because sports completely changed his life.
Through the academy, we found out about Special Olympics in India. We have since spent more than ten years with the movement and Rithik has grown so much through the various opportunities open to him. He has represented India in cricket matches around the world, including Australia and Bangladesh, and has won more than 60 medals both nationally and internationally.
Apart from competition opportunities, Rithik has also represented Asia Pacific at global events such as the 2018 Special Olympics Global Athlete Congress in Baku to advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. The exposure – both on and off the sports field – has helped boost his confidence, and made him realize that he can achieve his dreams so long as he puts his mind to it.
Rithik’s cricket coach has observed that he has become more sociable. He used to interact only with his coach, but he has found the courage to speak to others and make new friends at the academy.
Rithik now works as a coach with a non-profit organization in Jaipur, teaching cricket to young children. I’m so proud to see how he has grown to become a mentor to others who respect and look up to him. He is the best son I could ever pray for. I am so thankful and comforted to see how far he has come.