Spocial Revolution: How this family is beating autism by running

“We drew inspiration from our 14-year-old son, Sairam, a gifted child with autism”

People draw inspirations from different aspects of life – from leaders, sports person, nature. Ours was a little different. We drew inspiration from our 14-year-old son, Sairam, a gifted child with autism.

At the Chennai Marathon

Our family is a typical “couch potato gang” who occasionally dabble into jogging as part of our New Year resolution, but never beyond the month of January. Sai especially hated any form of physical activity. Our experiences in making him walk were notorious, especially on one rainy day in Chennai where, seemingly, the entire traffic stopped seeing his tantrums, and traffic cops had to come to help us. We had almost given up on making Sai to do anything remotely connected to sports, and we still had to resolve his weight-issues that kept up with our family trend.

Then came our angel in disguise – Santosh Padmanabhan, a volunteer in Sai’s school, who we heard was a running coach. We talked to with him and he invited us for the weekly walks at Cubbon Park. Here started our journey – first thing, it was almost cruel waking up at such early hours. After getting up, to wake up Sai was such a Herculean task, where we almost had to pour water on his face. After packing our all his favourites (chocolates, biscuits to motivate), we reached Cubbon at last.

It was a sight to see people training, running, sweating it out. Gosh! We were really overwhelmed and thought of almost going back. We could not imagine ourselves running like these people. We took a stroll around with dragging Sai along. One thing that helped was that Sai liked greenery and scenic places. Slowly, the weeks progressed by with Sai enjoying his weekly walks in and around some very beautiful spots in Bangalore like Byalkere Peacock reserve.

And one fine day, Santosh asked us to register for 10K race in Kaveri trail marathon and we were shocked. We could not imagine us running in a marathon. I kept asking him if it is okay for us to walk and we might take a long time. I had my own doubts about completing the race. Thanks to all his assurances, we started preparing for the race. We reached one day before and took a look at the race venue. Praying to all our favourite Gods, we went to the start point. And lo and behold, it was drizzling. We still kept up a brave front and were happy to see all our running friends from Runners high encouraging us. I think the best moment is the start of the race – all the enthusiastic faces, thumping music, count down.. it was simply electrifying. We started the race and what a wonderful moment it was! Sai was thrilled by the scenery – the Kaveri flowing around, the countryside, bullock carts passing by, water stations laden with all his favourite biscuits, chips, energy bars; it was almost like a picnic – eating and taking pictures.

We were an amusing sight for all the runners as our family drudged on. We were walking so slow almost everybody overtook us; after the 5 km point, the Sun was out and we had to literally drag Sai. He was stopping frequently to stand and enjoy the scenic beauty around him. After the 7 km point, almost all of them had finished the race, and we received panic calls from Santosh asking whether everything was okay,  and people on bikes volunteering to drop us back with aid stations were closing down. But we kept on our brave face and walked on. And at last, we completed the race in 2 hours and 30 minutes, perhaps the longest anyone took, but all the pain vanished seeing the group waiting for us to complete and cheered on! Congratulatory calls from his teachers and our family made all the pain worth it! I think that was the moment when the running bug bit us. Now we even wanted to improve our timing.

Sai with his father at the Bangalore Ultra marathon

Our journey continued on with Bangalore Ultra, Chennai Marathon and Bangalore Midnight marathon. We are still taking baby step – still not running fully, still an entertaining sight for all other runners (runners who want to slow down after seeing us get motivated and start running with more vigour) and still get tempted by the goodies in the aid station. We are still the last to complete but we are okay with it.

It has helped change our lifestyle a lot – waking up early morning is not a big deal for all three of us now. Sai can walk 10 kilometres easily and has improved his timing also. Though he has not reduced drastically, he has not put on more weight and, most importantly, he recognizes social smiles and cheers; he loves the waving and encouraging shouts! Our family and friends come to the races to cheer us. His concentration levels has increased and his temper tantrums have come down drastically. He can now wait anywhere for hours without getting impatient! We are able to engage him in meaningful activities so that he can lead a quality life. And as a family, we have come together as a team and his father has also taken up running.

We still miss our weekend late morning wake ups but that one smile of Sai when he finishes the race inspires us to continue our mission. We keep spreading this message to parents of other gifted children and our real success lies in making them get the same experience! Running has definitely changed our lives and we hope it brings joy to others also.

This story is a part of the Spocial Revolution series, a collaboration with SportsKeeda featuring stories of sports as an instrument towards social change and voices from the community on sports as a choice in sustainability.

Have a story of how sports changed your life or someone else’s? Write to contribute@thealternative.in 

Sasi Rekha is a computer science engineer working with an multinational company based out of Bangalore. She with her husband, Baskaran and her 14 year old son Sairam has embarked on the journey of long distance running. more


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Sasi Rekha is a computer science engineer working with an multinational company based out of Bangalore. She with her husband, Baskaran and her 14 year old son Sairam has embarked on the journey of long distance running. more

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