Baia Davitaia, Tbilisi

“A special child”, “I don’t know what to do” – these are the questions or concerns that I, as a mother of an autistic child, have often come across and I understand the fear and confusion that drags down the parents and gives them the sense of desperation and imminent isolation. Nevertheless, such cases in my life are becoming fewer and fewer as unfailing, permanent drive to move forward and Luka’s improved condition help me overcome it. When you finally discover that your child has autism, you have lost a lot of time. Many people are unaware of autism symptoms and they may easily overlook something very important. However, with autism, it is extremely dangerous to be late.

The first alarming sign Luka showed was that he stopped talking. Apparently, it was a clear signal that he might have autism. My mother, Ia Davitaia, a pediatrician, urged me to take him to a child psychologist. In the beginning, the psychologist thought it was a result of an uncertain stress and it would pass because the child did not demonstrate other autism-related symptoms. Waiting for his speech to restore, we lost the irreparable time that I am still regretting… Then we took him to Germany where they told us the diagnosis right in our face, without beating around the bush. I remember that German doctor very well, his every word was like a bullet shot at me. I will remember that man all my life… His words about Luka’s future sounded like the final verdict. It is very painful to recall…

Afterwards, we travelled to the USA because there was nothing I could find in Tbilisi to help him, even the information about his condition could only be found on the Internet. In the USA, we faced new challenges. He could not understand English and it took him two years to point to the things he wanted. It took us additional time to restore his ability to produce sounds and understand English, which was a new language for him. It was time demanding and we were racing against the clock. There was a threat that we would lose more time. I was constantly stressed because I could not understand Luka and was afraid of missing something. Luka was 9 years old when he shook his hand in refusal for the first time… We have come a long way since then – he uses iPad to show us what he wants, etc.

Unfortunately, Georgia does not offer an environment adapted to such children. In the USA, I take Luka to the movie theatres where they have special shows where the auditorium is not darkened and the sound is not too high. Such places with adapted environment are very important. My fund “Georgian Autism Fund” has launched similar shows in movie theaters in Tbilisi too. We had an unwavering support from the movie theater managers, which is something to be happy and hopeful about.

It is similarly important to learn and work according to the program. You can use a therapist’s help but it’s a rather labor intensive and expensive service. However, the end result does not depend on the money alone, the child’s abilities and skills must allow you to reach this outcome. In our case, there is some progress but I had hoped for more…

If you face this problem and find out that your child has this condition, do not despair. In most cases, a timely therapy gives very good results. If the parent is hopeless, the child loses all the chances of rehabilitation and the condition does not improve. We, the parents are the driving force behind the well-being of our children, and they need our support! Even if our children are voiceless, special or reticent, they are equal to any other human being in the universe. Their life is the guarantee of their rights and freedoms. To what extent their rights will be protected, depends on the society. This is what we should take care of; this is our common and main goal!

That’s right, it is a hard and long road to take but it must be taken. Sometimes the people close to you are not prepared to take the road with you, and loneliness adds fuel to the sense of total hopelessness. That is why, family members matter so much in our life. The concept of family is very necessary for the child and his/her future. All the parents of special children, my dear and precious people, please remember that you are wise and tremendously dedicated. Remember that our children are leading us to the way of self-realization. We have an extraordinary and important mission to carry out!”