DR RADICA MAHASE
“I have had to overcome many challenges over the years. I think when I was a younger, I was non-verbal and it was very challenging understanding what was being said to me. Even when I started talking, I needed time to respond to questions or when people were talking too fast. Another major challenge was making friends at school and being bullied by the other students.”
These are some of the experiences of Kendell Boodoo, a 24-year-old self-taught animator, who was diagnosed with autism at six. He is a very creative young man who has already won awards for his artistic abilities. Boodoo experienced severe bullying at both primary and high school. He struggled with making friends and he still has difficulties communicating and expressing himself. Today, Boodoo is a year two student at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).
When he was three, Boodoo’s mother recognised his creative streak. He sculpted fruits and vegetables using Play-doh. He even created an alien amusement park with the rides and the monsters lined up waiting to get on. At five he was using Paint in Accessories to draw his characters and print them.
Boodoo was non-verbal for most of his younger years. Boodoo said, “I attended four special schools before I started primary school at the age of nine, in second-year class. I wrote SEA at the age of 15 and graduated from Brazil Secondary School in 2017 when I was 20 years of age. I completed a diploma in animation studies and i am currently pursuing a bachelor of fine arts in digital media arts.”
Boodoo is an accomplished animator. He says, “I created an alter-ego character named 'KBMW' to help me cope with bullying. I did cartooning to express myself to my parents and teachers. This helped me to tell my side of the story without using words. Sometimes when I have to talk about what happened I will get confused and more upset.”
Boodoo also has his own YouTube channel and his current project is a mini series called Kenny and Brown Bear, stories based on his personal experiences as a child.
He received an award for Personal Achievement at the Autism Superhero Awards 2021 organised by Support Autism T&T.
Boodoo said, “One of my biggest accomplishments is winning the Most Promising Animator Award from the Animae Caribe Film Festival in 2015. I also feel very proud of myself because I am also pursuing my dreams to become an animator, at UTT.”
As a young man with autism, Boodool has his fair share of challenges but his successes should show us that individuals on the autism spectrum can live very successful, accomplished lives. Boodoo was very determined to succeed and with the help of his mother Amoy Boodoo, he was able to "float" through the public school system. Despite all his challenges he won awards at his high school for most outstanding student scoring the highest in his class and he was presented with the Principal’s Award when he graduated, reflecting the school’s motto "Challenge yourself to succeed."
He would like to see some changes in TT, though.
“I would like to see more opportunities for children to get into schools with good teachers and be treated with respect and kindness. I want to see more people get jobs and be treated fairly in the work place.”
Boodoo has some very good advice for other autistic individuals and their families.
“To the families I will say do not give up on your child. It is very hard work and your child will need you to help him/her.
"When I was four years old, my mom joined the Autistic Society and did parents’ workshops. I remember going with my parents to a school in Tacarigua and my dad kept me in the park while my mom was in the meetings. Meeting and talking with other parents helped my family. These workshops helped my mom to go into schools and talked to my teachers and classmates.”
Boodoo noted, “Being autistic is a different way of thinking and learning. Society needs to treat people with autism with more understanding and acceptance.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank my family, teachers and friends who continue to help me.”
Congratulations to Boodoo on his successes and best wishes to him, as he pursues his dreams in animation and graphic design.
Dr Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T