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MAURITIUS Thursday, April 21, 2011 Page 5

AUTISM, according to the medical but I am sure the number is much
definition, is a developmental dis- higher,” she tells NEWSNOW.
order that appears in the first three This is backed up by Dr Joffrey
years of life, and affects the brainʼs Bodet, a psychologist attached to
normal development of social and Association des Parents des
communication skills. Enfants Inadaptes de Maurice
In Mauritius, there is no reliable (APEIM). “One out of every 1,000
data on the number of cases. children is autistic. This is the
According to Geraldine, one per- international norm of evaluation. In
cent of the population is supposed Mauritius I believe there should be
to suffer from this condition. over 5,000 patients, both children
“Unfortunately, there are no sta- and adults, suffering from autism
tistics available from authorities for but they are not registered any-
autism. Our association is in con- where.”
tact with some 300 such families

The struggle
to make life
better for
the children
Both Geraldine and Yasmin believe that notion of what can or can’t hurt her.”
when parents discover they have autis- To compensate for the “lost” time,
tic children, it is the parents who need Geraldine regularly takes Anais out.
more support than the children them- “This is something I cannot do with
selves. Evans, so I make the most of it with
“The parents must have the necessary Anais. I try to make up for her lost
support and encouragement for them, in childhood.”
turn, to be supportive and loving to For Yasmin, it is the same situation
their children.” with daughters Zainab and Sakeenah.
Geraldine says in her case, her hus- “Both sisters now understand Ilyas’
band has been “just wonderful”. condition and they make sure he has no
“He has been constantly present and stress.”
very reliable. As a mother, I have more In fact Ilyas, unlike Evans, is not too
than one time given way to my grief hyperactive. And unlike Evans, he can
and cried, but he never showed his talk more. “I mean, he will not be able
grief. He keeps everything inside while to make a complete sentence but at
still being very supportive.” least he can make himself understood.”
The same applies to Yasmin’s hus- Both Yasmin and Geraldine deplore
band, Iqbal. “He understood that this is the lack of appropriate structures to
Yasmin and Ilyas not something that we asked for and he accommodate such children.
‘I cannot talk for others but when it comes to me, I
is very attentive to Ilyas’ needs and
However, says Geraldine, one thing “I had to send Evans to a ‘normal’
that a family tends to forget is the effect kindergarten and didn’t help him much.
know that my future plans cannot be dissociated
from my son’s future. I will make sure he gets all it has on brothers and sisters. Now he is in a special school and since
“Even today my heart aches for last year he has made remarkable
Anais. I feel that I have missed her progress. I know of other parents who
the love, attention and care I can give him’
“We had gone to South Africa on holiday world. He is as human as anyone of us. It’s childhood,” says Geraldine. “She was have to send their children to private
and we consulted doctors there.” just that he is unique – not different. He is deprived of the attention and love that specialised schools, but the fees are
Yasmin then decided to take things in unique. she needed at that time.” expensive so they not accessible to all
hand and started digging for the appropriate “And his uniqueness makes him the more When Evans was born, Anais was parents.”
information. lovable and unfortunately more vulnerable,” barely four, an age when she needed Geraldine and Yasmin are both
“That was not easy. As it is, as parents we says Geraldine. cuddling and special attention just like gnawed with concern about the uncer-
are already very vulnerable in such circum- After their first contact, both Geraldine any other child. tain futures facing Evans and Ilyas,
stances. On top of that there was no appro- and Yasmin decided they had to do some- By the time she was going to primary “I will now say something that can
priate structure to advise us… it was not thing positive. That was the birth of Autism school, her brother had been diagnosed shock many parents. But I think I must
easy.” Mauritius. as autistic. say it and I know it must be the same
Then fate took a positive turn. “We started talking in our own circles and “I feel I have not been there for her feeling that Yasmin has deep down her
Says Geraldine “One day I took my son looked for parents who had children like like I should have been. This is maybe heart...
for a haircut at the hairdressers. There I ours. In less than two years – the association a regret that I have and that I will carry “I must be the only mother who
heard one of the hairdressers talking about was co-founded by Yasmin and me in for some time,” Geraldine adds. wishes that her son leaves the world
Yasmin’s son. I approached her and request- November 2009 – we have been able to But she stresses the love and special before her…” cries Geraldine.
ed her to put me in contact with Yasmin.” group some 24 parents, that is 24 children,” bonding that unite both Anais and “While I am here, Evans will lack for
The two mothers met and despite their dif- explains Geraldine. Evans. nothing. He is my son, I will never
ferent backgrounds, they formed an instant Since April 2, following the media cam- “She is very protective of him, abandon him.
bond. “We talked about our sons and since paign for World Autism Day and the week of though he can sometimes give her a “I keep thinking about what will hap-
the two are of the same age, it was very easy activities that the association organised, very rough time. He would, for exam- pen to him after me. People can say
for each of us to understand each other. many more parents have come forward. ple, tear pages from her story books to they’ll be there for him, but how can I
“After many months I had finally found “We now have 32 couples, that means make paper boats and this gets her mad. be sure? I will not be able to go if I
somebody who understood me and who, like eight more children. But I am optimistic that He sometimes plays roughly with her. know I am leaving him behind. In fact,
me, did not want to hide my son from the many more will come forward.” He is not to be blamed as he has no I refuse to go before him…”