Meet Tulika P.
If I want to see a change in the world, I must be a part of the effort.
Tulika P. is mom to Vedant, 13, who is on the autism spectrum. She is a computer engineer by education and an autism advocate by passion. She is an Autism Speaks volunteer Advocacy Ambassador and volunteers locally for autism acceptance and awareness. Tulika is also a blogger and can be found at BrainDroplets.
Being a mom is a feeling that’s hard to explain. Add to it a layer of being a special needs mom. No matter how closely you’ve known a family of a child with special needs, you’ll find it extremely difficult to understand their emotions - the joys they find in little things, the challenges they go through that are hard to explain and difficult to see or comprehend. I wish it was all black and white but it’s not, and sometimes even the best of wishers get it all wrong.
Some people think that my son’s autism causes us misfortune, but that's completely incorrect. There is a huge difference being worried about my child and his future and feeling like a victim. My son is and will always be my joy, my pride and my reason to look forward to every day.
I’ve spent several sleepless nights - some worrying about what the future holds for my son and some lying next to him while he stayed up all night giggling and jumping, or anxious and crying. Those nights have been exhausting, but it’s the kiss I plant on his forehead the morning after that recharges me.
My experience as an autism mom is why I decided to become a Volunteer Advocacy Ambassador with Autism Speaks – to advocate for my son, Vedant, and people like him.
Learn more about Tulika’s efforts as a Volunteer Advocacy Ambassador in this Q&A:
What inspired you to become and Advocacy Ambassador with Autism Speaks?
My son is my inspiration for all that I do as an ambassador. As I navigated various systems for my son, I realized that there was so much that needed to be changed for the system to work for those with autism, but I did not know how and where to start. It was then that I became aware of the Ambassador Program, and it seemed like the perfect place to be. I wanted to be a part of the effort to bring about a positive change for the autism community, and Autism Speaks gave me an opportunity to do just that.
What are some of your proudest moments or biggest wins since joining?
My first meeting with my congressman must be one of my proudest moments. I had so many apprehensions before the meeting, but the program had prepared me very well and it was such a great help. I felt like I was able to tell our story and advocate because I went in informed. Apart from this, every time a bill is passed that our Ambassador team had worked so hard for, it is a win for every single one for us! That will always make me very proud.
Obviously, your son, Vedant, is the inspiration behind your work as an autism advocate, but what motivates you to continue to fight for the autism community as a whole?
If I want to see a change in the world, I must be a part of the effort. So, I continue to advocate. Advocacy has given me a voice that I did not know I had. It is empowering to be able to go out there and tell your story and demand attention. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to advocate and see the changes happen, big or small. There is so much that needs to be done for the autism community that not continuing to advocate is just not an option for me.
What advice would you give to someone who may be thinking about becoming an Advocacy Ambassador?
Do it. Really, every effort matters. You might not realize but what you do can change the outcome for the autism community and the Ambassador Program gives you the tools and avenues to do that. It also gives you the opportunity to meet other Ambassadors - parents, siblings, professionals and self-advocates from different states across the country - and learn about their stories as well as learn from their advocacy efforts. If you have the passion to advocate, this program will give you the channel to turn that passion into action.
What makes you proud of Vedant and how far he’s come since he was first diagnosed?
Vedant never ceases to amaze me with his resilience and his ability to push the boundaries. He has shown us that he can when others said he could not, and that makes me so proud of him. He might not be where his neurotypical peers are, but he continues to make progress and overcome his challenges every single day. He is my pride just for being the extraordinary person that he is.
What are a few long-term goals you have for your son?
I want to see my son be independent. I also want to see him have a meaningful job, a companion to spend his life with and the ability to make his own decisions.