mail, a long one. Even before we opened the e-mail we knew this was something different and special. There was
something about the vibe.
When we read the mail, we felt like immense joy and gratitude fighting for top position in our hearts. The mail was
from Aarti, mom of Amrit Khurrana. Amrit is an artist and we got introduced to her on the e-mail. Aarti spoke
about Amrit, who is autistic, and how she had taken a liking to the Suta page. She said that she saw Amrit just
opening the Suta page and being with it. Something about Suta felt good to her. She would look at our website,
our social media page and just smile in joy. Eventually, Amrit found a muse in Suta and started drawing pictures of
us from her own perspective.
As Aarti sent us these works, we fell in love. How could we not? Amrit’s art is a work of utter honesty, of her truth
that she has given us the privilege to look at. It beautifully paves way for all of us to see beyond differences and
celebrate that feeling of oneness that art brings, more so in the case of Amrit’s art. Her art inspired us to bring To
Amrit, With Love to life by replicating her work on our made-in-heaven mul sarees.
And, Amrit, her journey and her art inspired us to learn more about Autism and we spoke to Aarti to know more.
We had some very insightful conversations and Aarti was kind enough to connect us with other parents of autistic
children who very sweetly agreed to talk to us and help us understand more about this very misunderstood
Conversations that linger in our hearts-
Aarti put us in touch with many people across the world and we reached out to them. Amidst a lot of back and
forth, time-zones, schedules and calls, we set up 3 video calls to have conversations with 3 wonderful people who
were parents to autistic children. Peter Quartley, Donna Budway and Stevie Lee were these kind souls.
Our first call was with Peter. Peter spoke to us about his son Jim who is 10 years old and is a non-verbal autistic
child. He told us about how Autism is more of a communication disorder and not so much a cognitive disorder. Jim,
he said, is quite imaginative, funny and loving. Jim has been communicating via an iPad since he was 6 years old
and his meltdowns have reduced after he found a way to communicate, he says. Listening to a parent talk about
autism and his journey with his autistic son was something that taught us so much about autism. We asked Peter if
he could make a video and talk about his journey in short and he agreed. In fact, all the four parents, including
Aarti, made a video for us. We were amazed at how kind all these people are to take time out their extremely busy
schedules and put in time and energy to help the rest of us understand their world better.
We next spoke to Donna Budway. Her daughter Emma is also a non-verbal autistic child. She is 24 years old and
Donna recounted about her long journey with Emma. Until Emma found a way to spell and communicate with
them when she was about 12 years old, Donna says they had a very tough time understanding what had to be
done. And, after that the first thing Emma said to her speech-therapist was that she wanted her mother to read to
her. Donna says that they had not been doing that until then because Emma always seemed disinterested in them
and they did not think that she would like that. But, it turned out that Emma really needed that. Once they started
reading to her, it became routine. They would first read fiction to her and then go on to read non-fiction about
social justice, history, etc. Today, Emma lives in her own apartment, has great friends and has a full life. She follows
her passion for social justice. We were beyond inspired to learn about this amazing human being!
Stevie Lee was who we spoke to next. Stevie’s son Joss is a 16 year old and is a non-verbal autistic child. It moved
us deeply to hear Stevie speak about her journey with Joss. As she spoke about how Joss is a loving child she also
told us about how he struggles to understand the world around him, especially with respect to social rules. He also
struggles with communicating. She asked us to imagine a world where you cannot drown background noise, where
you are hyper-sensitive to noise, where no one speaks your language and everyone behaves unpredictably and she
said this is a glimpse of how Joss perceives the world. Although Stevie and her partner have learnt to
communicate with Joss and to adapt to his needs and behavior, she says she wished that the rest of the world was
kinder, understanding and empathetic as well.
Stevie is a drama-producer and has produced a film called The Reason I Jump that talks about Autism. Joss, Emma
and Jim are part of it too and it is an incredibly moving film.
What we learnt-
Interacting with the parents has been an intense journey for us and has made us ponder about how safe and loved
autistic children feel amidst all of us. We have a few key takeaways that rang clear in all our conversations. And,
we want to leave you with these points to ponder, understand and converse about:
Autistic children deserve education and a means to communication. It is the disability to communicate
that gives rise to a lot of frustration in them.
The support that parents and children find in communities is priceless. It is their place for joy and growth.
One always has to assume competence in autistic children. They may not be able to express, but that does
not reflect their cognitive abilities.
Every autistic child is different, autism really is a spectrum.
An autistic child can indeed have a full, healthy life with the right support and education
Autistic kids have a lot to say and contribute to our world.
Each one of us has a role to play in creating an inclusive, kind world for all of us. We have to be
celebrating differences, listening to every story we can and treading forward with empathy.