DR RADICA MAHASE
Hello, my name is Kirti and I am 16 years old. My brother’s name is Nikhil and he is one year and three months younger than me. He was diagnosed with autism when he was four years old.
At that time I didn’t understand anything about him. I used to get angry when he won’t play with me. He had a little toy truck that he would only play with and I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t play with our other toys. My daddy kept telling me that Nikhil is different and I didn’t understand what that meant either.
As we got older Nikhil had to go for different therapies and sometimes I would go with him. It was only then that I started to understand what being different meant. So many things that I did, Nikhil could not do. He didn’t talk – even now that he’s 14 years old, he would only say words and sometimes a few sentences. He couldn’t dress himself and my mommy always had to help him in the shower.
I used to get so impatient with him and I used to always be angry that he would take so long to do things. I used to fight with him when he didn’t want to sit and colour with me or when we went to movies and he didn’t want to stay so we all had to leave and then I would always miss out.
In fact, for a few years while growing up I resented him. The pressure of having a sibling with autism was too much for me and I just didn’t understand why my family had to be so different.
My parents focused on my brother most of the time, there were so many things that I wanted to do but I couldn’t do, so many times we would go out for a movie or we would go to the mall and had to leave because Nikhil would be upset or have a meltdown. As a little girl, I didn’t understand why life had to revolve around him.
My parents kept explaining autism to me; they showed me videos which explained autism and they made sure to answer all my questions. By ten years or age I was okay with having a brother with autism. I was still a bit embarrassed and I hated that people would stare when we go out in public. But at home he and I were good friends; that was my bro! As I understood him more we became closer and I realised we actually love a lot of the same things.
We have hundreds of selfies, we love to go to the beach and for walks and, of course, we love a screen – me, my phone and him, his tablet. We could sit for hours together in complete peace just watching our videos, eating a snack, or just liming around. Today, Nikhil is my riding partner! We mightn’t communicate much verbally but we understand each other totally. He cares for me and looks out for me in his own way. And I will protect him against the world!
We have developed such a very close relationship where we understand each other without words, we have no expectations of each other, and we can just be ourselves. I am so grateful to my parents for always answering my questions and correcting me when it came to my brother’s special needs. It is only with their patience and understanding that I grew up to be the teenager that I am today – proud of my brother, accepting of his autism and accommodating of his special needs.
Having a special sibling has shaped me into the individual I am today. I have learnt to love him unconditionally! I have learnt to be open and accepting of people’s differences and most importantly, I have learnt to be brave. At 16 years of age I am fearless when it comes to my brother and his needs. I am least bothered when we are in public and people stare at him and I can assure you, if anyone insults him or speaks about him in a negative way I have not, and will not, hesitate to correct them or reply to them.
My life is special and wonderful and unique with Nikhil in it. I won’t change my brother for the world but I will change the world for my brother.
Dr Radica Mahase is founder/director, Support Autism T&T