By Mahesh Nayak
Mangaluru, Aug 31, 2018 : A 19-year-old Abhishek Prabhu has made Mangalore proud by winning two medals in the First National Level Swimming competition for Autistic and Downs Syndrome Children hosted by Rotary Club at Chinchwad, Pune on Sunday, 26th August 2018. He won gold in the 25 meters category and bronze in the 50 meters category.
with Victor Vaz, National Director (Sports) - Special Olympics Bharat
Receiving the Gold Medal in Swimming in Pune
Abhishek with mom Laxmi
Abhishek with dad Narasimha Prabhu, mom Laxmi and kid brother Anirudh
Nearly 200 children from Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and other states had participated in the event. He had been regularly winning lesser prizes in earlier competitions which he had participated in. Last year he had brought home silver at the state level skating competition. Abhishek is a student of Chetana Child Development Centre in the city.
Abhishek Prabhu is a gifted autistic boy who has made a mark for himself through his outstanding achievements in the field of sports, mainly swimming and skating. He is the son of Narasimha Prabhu Manjeshwar and his wife Laxmi. His younger brother Anirudh is a fourth standard student.
An Autistic Boy’s Saga of Achievement
Born on 20th May 1999, Abhishek Prabhu is the elder son of Narasimha Prabhu Manjeshwar and his wife Laxmi. His dad is a businessman and mom, a homemaker. He has a younger brother Anirudh, who is studying in fourth standard.
Abhishek’s parents first realized that he was a special child at about the age of three, when they observed that his development was not proceeding along the expected track. Further consultation with a doctor confirmed that their infant was suffering from ‘autism’, which is a developmental disorder characterized by troubles with social interaction and communication. Autistic persons are known for their restricted and repetitive behavior. They need continuous attention and monitoring as they do not fit into the regular social fabric. They also experience sudden and excessive surge of pent up energy which they release through intense physical activity. They can be abrupt, spontaneous and unpredictable, often stubborn with their demands. Their personality make up is also different. They do not connect with others easily and may appear emotionally unresponsive.
Due to these reasons regular schools do not admit autistic children. They have to be tutored in special schools. These schools do not follow normal school curriculum. Instead of teachers, there are professionally trained instructors who will engage with the child in activities which are more suited to their temperament. For the Prabhu couple this was an unexpected turn in life. Initially they were far too shocked and unable to come to terms with the reality. But once they began to accept the fact, their attitude began to change. From a position of despair, they rose to a position of hope which allowed them to see a better future for their child. They admitted him to Chetana Child Development Centre, a special school which gradually became like a second home to him.
As autistic children crave constant activity to burn their excessive bursts of energy, Abhishek’s parents were advised to introduce him to sports. Swimming was the first choice and Abhishek took to it well. Teaching swimming to an autistic child is not the same as doing it to a normal kid. The coach will need to be more personally involved and understand the nature of autistic behavior. It is a deeply demanding and often frustrating job. Yet there was one person who was keen to take it. That was Suresh Kumar, a swimming coach at Mangala Swimming Pool. He adopted Abhishek as his personal protégé and showered his devoted attention on him. By the time he was five years old, Abhishek had already learned how to handle himself with ease in the water. Along with swimming, he also tried his feet at skating and did quite well at it too.
Now more than a decade later, Abhishek is a champion autistic swimmer having made outstanding achievements which his parents are proud of. Now 19, Abhishek is at the fag end of teen age. Throughout this ordeal, they had stood behind their son like a rock.
His mother, Laxmi, especially had taken on full maternal responsibility. She had made a firm decision to see to it that her son would reach his maximum potential, come what may. She was Abhishek’s constant source of support. With sheer grit and determination, extraordinary patience and motherly instinct for sacrifice, she nurtured her special child, constantly opening new horizons for him to explore and grow. Without her unflinching faith in his future, it would be difficult to imagine how Abhishek would have fared in coping with his life.
His father Narasimha also gratefully acknowledges the entire team of coaches of Mangala Swimming Pool who always went out of their way to accommodate Abhishek and treated him as one of their own. His old coach Suresh Kumar is no longer attached to Mangala Swimming Pool, but still he makes it a point to keep in touch with Abhishek and know about his progress.
Abhishek Prabhu has achieved extraordinary goals despite severe limitations. He is an inspiration to all, especially to those to whom life could have been kinder. As an enlightened society, we should encourage those like Abhishek who kindle our passion to overcome our weakness and achieve strength with effort and determination. Special children are a neglected segment of society. People view them with fear and apprehension. Their existence is clouded with innumerable myths and superstitions. Ignorance about their behavior is rampant. Greater awareness about them will lead to a sense of understanding, sympathy and acceptance in society. This will go a long way in making our world a better place to live in.
Abhishek Prabhu deserves our recognition and appreciation.
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