DR RADICA MAHASE
One of the biggest joys in life is to see children growing up to be responsible, caring and committed adults. One such young man celebrated his 17th birthday (almost an adult!) a couple of days ago. He celebrated with his twin sister. This week I am very happy to share an article written by him – here is Kha-Vi’s story:
“Hello, my name is Kha-Vi Ramoutar. I am 17 years old, and I have a twin sister named Valeshka Ramoutar, or Vallie for short, who is autistic. I am currently a student at Hillview College, I am in Lower 6. I am grateful for this opportunity to share my personal perspective as a sibling with a person who has autism, as it has been a challenging yet rewarding experience.
"Growing up with Vallie, I have learnt the importance of patience, understanding, and unconditional love. Being the sibling of someone with special needs has taught me to embrace differences and see the world from a unique perspective. Although communication and socialisation can be a challenge, Vallie has a contagious smile with the phrase, happy smile, along with some funny idiosyncrasies that never fail to brighten up my day. We share a special bond that is indescribable, one with an unbreakable bond.
"Having a sister with special needs, I have been blessed with a unique perspective on life. I have learned to be more patient and compassionate towards others, as well as to see the beauty in everyone's unique differences. Vallie sometimes requires more time to process information or communicate her thoughts and feelings. This can be frustrating at times, especially when I am in a rush, but I have learned to be patient and give her the time and space she needs. My sister Vallie has taught me that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it is our job to embrace and celebrate them.
"In addition to teaching me valuable life lessons, my experience with my sister has also presented me with some unique challenges. For example, I have learned how to communicate with Vallie in a way that she understands, which sometimes means using non-verbal cues or using simpler language. I have also learned, and still learning, how to be patient and understanding when Vallie becomes overwhelmed or upset, which can sometimes be difficult.
"Despite these challenges, being a sibling with an individual on the autism spectrum has also brought me immense joy and happiness. Vallie has a unique perspective on the world, and I am constantly amazed by her creativity and intelligence as she has a deep appreciation for art and craft. She has taught me to appreciate the simple things in life, and to find joy in the little moments.
"Currently, Vallie is being home-schooled, and it has been a great opportunity for her to learn at her own pace and in an environment that is comfortable for her. Our mother, Khadine Ramoutar, and stepdad, Sheldon Dhanoolal, whom we both refer to as Uncle Sheldon, have been our pillars of support, especially after our father, Vishnu Ramoutar, passed away when we were both 12 years old. Their love, dedication, and sacrifices have not gone unnoticed, and I am forever grateful for everything they do for us.
"Looking towards the future, I am excited to pursue my dreams of becoming a doctor so that I can support Vallie and my future family. From where I stand, I believe that my experiences as a sibling of a person on the spectrum will make me a more compassionate and understanding doctor, and I hope to use my skills to improve the lives of others.
"It will also bring awareness for families who have loved ones with autism. It is my belief that by becoming a doctor, I can provide the necessary medical care, support, and advocacy for those who may not have a voice or who may feel misunderstood. My sister is an integral part of my future, and I want to make sure that I am always there for her, no matter what.
"To my peers who have autistic siblings, I would like to offer some advice. Firstly, it is important to remember that every individual with autism is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting them. Take the time to learn about your sibling's specific needs and preferences, and try to communicate with them in a way that is comfortable for them. Try to engage in activities that both you and your sibling enjoy, such as watching movies, playing games, or doing arts and crafts. These shared experiences can help strengthen your bond and create meaningful memories.
"Secondly, don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Being an autism sibling can be challenging at times, and it is important to have a support system in place.
"Being the twin brother of someone who has autism has been a journey filled with challenges, but it has also been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Through my experiences with Vallie, I have learned valuable life lessons and gained a unique perspective on the world. I am grateful for the love and support of my family, and I am excited for what the future holds. I hope that my story can inspire others to embrace differences, promote inclusion, and celebrate diversity.”
Wishing Kha-Vi and Valeshka a happy 17th birthday!
Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T