Today, allow me to introduce you to a multi-faceted star on the Autism spectrum – Kartik Iyer. He plays table tennis, loves cooking, swimming, spending time helping his mom, playing keyboard, taking gymnastics and basketball classes, dancing to Bollywood songs and along with all that he is also a huge fan of adventure sports. I wish I was half as talented as he is!
Let’s get started by chatting with his parents – Radha and Thrivikram Iyer.
Q) Would you like to briefly share your Autism journey with us?
Kartik is our second child and during his early years, we felt that he will learn and pick most of his skills during the formative years from his elder sibling who is about 2 years older to Kartik. When Kartik demonstrated repetitive behaviour at the age of 2, we felt it was alright and every child is different and things will get regularised over time. However, at age 3 when his eye contact was very minimal and he continued repetitive behavior, his aunt noticed it and asked us to get an opinion from the Doctors.
When Doctors diagnosed and let us know that he was on the Autism spectrum, it was shocking and we wondered “what now”? It was a scary situation and we were beginning to think of extremes in all the stages of his life and more importantly wondered on what will happen to him after we are gone.
We started intensive therapies as suggested by Doctors and tried to intervene from our side with the hope that he will quickly turnaround, but then realized that things take time and will happen gradually provided we make all provisions available i.e. time, money and patience. We understood the fact that he is a child first and comes with his own strengths.
So, we are currently focusing on his strengths and encouraging him in several areas with the objective of making him independent and develop critical life skills including communicate basic necessities, converse with vendors to buy and manage funds, able to cook for himself.
Over time we realised that Kartik has a natural flair for outdoor sports and was also interested in arts. So we encouraged him to enjoy swimming, table tennis, running, cycling etc and pursue arts such as drawing, singing, dancing, playing instruments etc. He has participated in 5km marathons and is also fond of skating.
We do not want to set unrealistic expectations on his performance in academic education but rather focus on his thinking abilities and social understanding which are more important skills to lead an independent life.
At the same time we do not want him to miss all the fun in these growing years.
Kartik has come a long way and we find him slowly catching up on many fronts and taking interest in many things.
Today we see him as a happy cheerful child, having his own quirks and way of doing things and he surely adds a whole lot of entertainment in our lives by his mannerisms and innocent actions.
We have been lucky to have the constant support of his maternal grandparents as well as his paternal grandmom, whose presence and unconditional love for him has helped Kartik bloom to the lovely child that he is today.
Q) Your advice for other Autism parents…
Be supportive to the child, but let the child grow in his natural way. Over time, one will realize that they are just differently abled and have feelings and emotions as any other child which should be respected.
Rejoice and celebrate their achievements since it takes more than double the efforts for them to achieve any milestone.
Very importantly as a parent, take time out for yourself, have an identity beyond your child (especially for the mothers) and also choose your tribe of fellow parents who will provide the necessary emotional support to you. Its important to be a happy parent rather than a perfect parent for your child.
Reach out to the society at large, there are many good people in your neighbourhood, school and extended families who will help you raise your child better and provide opportunities for inclusion.
Now let’s meet the star of the interview – Kartik
Q) How old are you Kartik?
Ans) I am ten years old.
Q) What school are you attending?
Ans) I go to Vibgyor High. I am studying in grade 3.
Q) You are budding chef kartik, what dishes can you prepare?
Ans) I like to make dosa and adai in my kitchen. I like to soak pulses, rice and chilies for making adai batter.
For my brother, I like to make Tomato Cheese sandwich. I make tea for my parents. I also grind my soup in the mixer everyday.
Q) Who taught you to cook? What do you like to eat/fav. food?
Ans) My Amma taught me to cook. I like to eat adai, dosa, rasam rice. I also like omlette, cookies and ice cream.
Q) Your mom told me about your love for dancing, what kind of dance do you like? Are you taking classes?
Ans) I like to dance on bollywood songs. Yes, Michael Sir is teaching me dance.
Q) You’re also taking classes for gymnastics and basketball, tell us more about that?
Ans) I have gymnastics and basketball classes at school. I like stretching exercises and like to dribble the ball.
Q) When did you start playing Table tennis, Kartik? Are you taking classes? How often do you play?
Ans) I play table tennis, backhand and forehand. Sunil Sir teaches me table tennis in my building. I have classes twice a week on Saturday and Sunday. In my Goa holiday, I played table tennis with Appa in the resort.
Q) What are the names of your close friends and how do you spend time with them?
Ans) I have friends in school. Aryaman, Abhiraj, Shaurya, Joyditya, Prisha and Pearl are my friends at school. They help me in many activities at school. I like to greet them and sit with them in the class.
I also like to meet my friends Shaurya, Shaunak, Rudra and Kabir on play dates. At home, Kapil Anna is my friend and we listen to music together.
Q) I learnt that you also help with your mom with chores, how do you help?
Ans) I like to help amma at home. I help by re-filling water in the pot for drinking so that all get cool water to drink. I put away the vegetables in the fridge after they are brought from the market. I also like to dry out the washed clothes by putting them on the clothesline. Sometimes I help to clean the kitchen counter.
Q) Lovely! Do you like going on vacations? Favourite or recent vacation please?
Ans) Yes, I like to go on holidays and stay in hotel resorts and play. My favourite holiday place is Goa. I like to go to beach and swim in the water.
Q) Do you enjoy music and movies? Please share few favourites…
Ans) I do not like to watch movies. I like to listen to Hindi songs and watch video on you tube. Some of my favourites are “Tera Mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi” and “Tu safar mera, hai tu hi meri manzil”
Q) How do you spend time with your brother?
Ans) I like to play football with him and run together with him. I always like to hug and sleep with my anna. I feel happy when he is at home with me.
Our interview would be incomplete with meeting Kapil, loving brother of Kartik, his friend and mentor.
Thanks Kapil for taking time to answer the questions.
Q) How old are you? What are you studying?
I am 12 years old and I am currently in grade 7.
Q) What are your hobbies Kapil?
My hobbies include playing football, playing video games and reading mythological books.
Q) Would you like to share a few memories of growing up with Kartik…
Initially I used to feel embarrassed to have a brother like Kartik, when he would do odd behaviors in front of other people, but now I feel that he is a gem and has made my life very special in his own unique way.
Unlike others, I have the chance of exploring a new way of life with my brother, and look at things differently.
He makes me proud by his various activities like his dancing abilities and his cooking skills and the thing that is special about him is that he finds a way to make me laugh in the most serious moments too.
Remember this quote from Temple Grandin :
This wonderful family has shown us that by doing exactly like Temple Grandin suggested, by exposing their son to a multitude of sports and hobbies, they have encouraged and nourished his soul. The result is a child who is happy, content, loving and confident. They truly are an inspiration to all of us. God Bless You dear Kartik and I hope and pray that you achieve immense success and happiness.
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