Today let’s meet Nishant and have an in depth and up close interview with him and his sister, Nivriti. Nishant is 21 years old. He is currently an intern at AMAZE’s flagship program AMEYA – Amaze Program for Mentoring and Empowerment of Young Adults. He is learning to do Technology based work like Data Entry, Digitizing and Graphics as well as Life Skills like Cooking, Housekeeping, Fitness and Leisure skills. He loves Cycling and Trekking in the mountains and Listening to Music of all genres. He is a National Level Bronze medalist for Special Olympics Bharat, Cycling in the 1 km and 5 km categories. Nishant is very affectionate by nature and is happy go lucky by character ..he dreams of a world where everyone is happy can do what they like to do . He would like to be a chef and travel the world . He has come a long way from the initial days of his diagnosis as having Regressive Autism. His mother Akila Vaidyanathan ( To read Interview With Akila Vaidyanathan, Director of Amaze Charitable Trust Part 1 ) helped him immensely by teaching him to use PECS, RPM, Avaz and many essential life skills. Let’s start by talking with her.
Hi Akila, would like to share a few details about your family and Autism journey so far…
I always loved children and when mine came along .albeit a little late each time I was thrilled to bits . Nishant was an active , happy and loving child . He is still very brave and resilient in spite of his problems . He is the first one even to notice I am sad or upset and will immediately give me a smile or a hug or a tissue to wipe my tears . It is such a blessing to have him in my life . When Nivriti had to come, I was 34 and we were warned by family and doctors that she may be disabled too and so we need to go for genetic testing . I refused to test as I had accepted Nishant as he was with my whole heart and so I was ready to accept this child also as a gift of life . And she has been truly a gift and a delight …full of energy and curiosity she keeps us active and grounded . She is very matter of fact with her acceptance of our “different family ” as she describes it . She is naturally very compassionate and empathetic and has friends of all ages and abilities . A little shy with strangers but once she knows you she will be your friend for life. She is my baby and my best friend too in many ways . My husband Ram is a wonderful father who has strong bonds with both our children and they hero worship him too . It is with his constant support that we have been able to work for Autism and impact many children and families . Both of us have given up our comfortable software careers at different points in our lives to support our children and the cause of Autism and we are so happy that we are on this journey of discovery and adventure ..on road not traveled before by many …
A few years ago ..life was not as simple ..Diagnosed at 3 years with regressive Autism he did not learn to speak or write through traditional approaches like Speech therapy and Occupational therapy due to his severe Sensory and Motor planning issues . He could understand a lot but developed many behavioral issues because of his inability to communicate.
That is when I trained myself and taught him to communicate using pictures ..through a methodology called PECS [Picture Exchange Communication System] at age 6 .This was a turning point for him as now he was able to express his needs …then he learnt to spell through a method called RPM [Rapid Prompt Method] on a Letter chart .To date his most comfortable mode of conveying open ended information is through the Letter chart .
Slowly he transitioned to using a Tab and a Computer under my guidance and he currently uses an App called AVAZ on the iPAD to communicate his basic needs and communication ..this is an icon based system . To do his academic work and answer questions he uses an App called Clicker Sentences IPAD which will convert his typing to speech .
Q) What did you get the medals for ?
National Level Cycling
Q) Do you remember the categories ?
Five km and One km
Q) What position ?
Q) Do you still enjoy cycling ?
Q) Where do you like to cycle?
Mettupalayam road [NH67 ] , Ngo colony [Coimbatore]
Q) Do you cycle everyday ?
Q) How often do you cycle ?
Three times a week.
Q) Do you enjoy trekking ..where do you go trekking?
Yes ..in the Nilgiris
Q) Would you like to trek somewhere else ?
Q) Your parents conduct Adventure Camps ..how do you like them?
Nowadays I get bored… [Nishant has been to over 15 camps since 2011]
Q) What interests you nowadays?
Q) What do you like to cook ?
Soup , Noodles.
Q) What part of the cooking do you do ?
Cut vegetables , stir [He does the entire process with some supervision ]
Q) What soup have you made today?
Brocolli and carrot soup.
Q) Who was Dr Kalam?
President [of India]
Q) You got a chance to meet him ..and ask him a question ..Do you remember what he said ?
“The future of India is in the hands of the youth “
Q) He is also known to your family in some other way ?
He was Thatha’s (grandfather’s) friend
Q) What are your favorite games on the ipad ?
Temple run and Subway surf .
Q) Which is your favourite app for communicating and why ?
Avaz ..because it has pictures.
This is a video of Nishant’s interview where you can see him typing his responses to the questions asked in this interview :
Q) What is your favorite hobby?
My favorite hobby is listening to music ..
Q) Who is your favorite music or singer ?
Abba , Jasraj , Jagjit singh
Q) What else do you do?
Watch Youtube cooking videos
Magic puzzle app [Jigsaw puzzles]
Q) Do you find RPM easier than Clicker ?
Q) Why do you find RPM easier than clicker?
Q) Who are your best friends ?
Gokul and Yogesh
Q) Why are they your best friends ..Do you have any common interests with them?
Cooking and playing games
Nivriti is 16 and is doing her 11th grade at KSIRS International school , IGCSE Board . She is a voracious reader and interested in Art , Theater , Literature , Nature , Animals , Music , Dance ,Travel , Adventure, Basketball and Baking. She shares a very special relationship with Nishant her brother whom she adores and admires. Thank you Nivriti for taking time to do the interview and help us understand the sibling’s point of view.
Q)You have beautiful name Nivriti ..What does it mean ?
I get asked that question all the time !! It means something along the lines of “Inner peace” ..attaining “Moksha.”
Q) What are you doing now ..what are you studying ?
I am going to the 11th grade .
Q) How much younger are you to Nishant ?
We are five years apart ..he is 21 right now and I am 16 .
Q) Would you like to say something about growing up with Nishant as your brother ?
Growing up I never thought of him as any different ..he was just a large creature who walked around me ..
who I always wanted to play with ..and who I always admired …and I still do
I always wanted to be as big as him and I never really considered him different and I did not even know that he was different
In fact when I was small I thought having Autism was the norm and everyone at some point of their lives had it and I could not wait for myself to have Autism !!
Akila : I remember you asking “When will I get Autism ?” and at that point I had to explain to you that not everybody gets Autism ..
You thought it was pretty cool for you to go for therapy and stuff like that ….
Q) How close are you to your brother ?
I would say we are pretty close but sometimes we get a little annoyed with each other ..I think that is normal between any two siblings
We bond over music and sometimes food …because our food tastes are very different
Akila…both of y’all like food actually ..different kinds of food ,
Nivriti …and being outdoors is also something we both really like and going on trips together
Akila..when you were little you would get scared and would not want to sleep alone ..and would sleep in his room
Q) Did you feel he was protective of you ?
I think although he doesn’t show it that much at some point he is a bit protective of me because if I don’t come home before seven he gets a little anxious ..when I have a sleep over he does get pretty anxious if I don’t call up and tell him I’ll be okay ….
Akila ..recently when you had dengue and were hospitalised he got very worried
..To Nishu …Did you get worried about Nivi when she was hospitalised with Dengue …
Nishant : Hello …Yes
Q) Did you ever feel that Nishu got more attention than you ….from your parents ?
Sometimes I did ..but I always knew that they loved both of us equally …so I understood why they tended to him more than they tended to me ..because his needs and wants are different from mine and the need to be attended to more often than mine and in a different way ..I did get a little jealous as a kid when he got a little more attention ..but that’s okay…
Q) How did you get over that or is it still there ?
Now it isn’t but as a kid when I was 7 or 8 and he was about 12-14 I did feel that they gave him a little more l attention but as I grew older I talked with my mom and my dad and they explained to me that his needs are different …and needs a little more attention
Akila – Now that he is older does he still get more attention
I think he does ..he is taking it for granted a little bit …but that’s okay ..let him have it …
Q) Do your parents buy into it ?
I think yes ..one of them ..Appa is very gullible and buys into him
Q) Have you attended any of the adventure camps conducted by your parents?
I have attended most of them..it is very fun ..very nice to meet other families that go through similar things like we go through.
Siblings especially ..it is much easier to be friends with them and you don’t have to tiptoe around the fact that your family is different
..its just a very happy and freeing experience.
Q) Any other events you have attended..
One velvi festival ..couple of them actually ..Madurai and Coimbatore ..I find it a good opportunity to make friends
and ..these areas ..Art , Movement ..Drama I find very interesting ..I plan to attend the upcoming festival in Bangalore
Nishu …do you find these areas Art Movement and Drama interesting? Do you want to go to Bangalore for the upcoming festival ?
Q) How do you think having a brother with special needs changed you or is making you different from others ..your peers ?
I think being with Nishu has definitely made me more empathetic, because having someone go though pain or some kind of trouble …it has made me more caring and compassionate and more open minded ..we have someone as different and weak as Nishu in this house
nothing will faze me in the outside world
Q) Would you like to change anything …like Nishu or your family ..?
No no ….I am perfectly happy with everything
Q) Do you wish as a older brother ..he was different ?
Sometimes I do wish ..but it is only for his own needs ..I don’t want him to suffer I wish he does not need to go through the things that he sometimes go through ..
Q) Do you have something to say to other siblings..
I guess ..not to be ashamed about it and to be open about it and if your friends or people you know say mean stuff about them ..special needs persons or tease you about your family
then you not be friends with them ..they are not worth it ..
To Nishu ..So do you feel good that she stands up for you and accepts you , you have her on your side
Nishu : Yes !!
Nishant on his relationship with his sister
Q) How do you spend time with your sister ?
Simply being silly and Going for trips
Q) Which was the best trip you went on ?
Q) That was a few years ago ..recently where did you go ?
Q) You are such an inspiration for all of us ..Do you want to say anything to everyone ..or about the interview
Too many questions!!
This is a video of Nishant and Nivriti’s interview. Yes, I did send a lot of questions for you Nishant, sorry dear! Nishant is blessed with a wonderful family who gave unconditional love and support and encouraged an all-round development. I believe that is the key to raising a child with Autism or any child with special needs – not trying to mould them into something new but help them become the best possible version of themselves!
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