Music & art help Nikhil Saiprasad, youth with autism, cope with life’s many challenges
Be it a musical tune or painting, 19-year-old Nikhil Saiprasad lends his own special magic to music and art. Nikhil, who has autism, is largely self-taught and follows his own rules when it comes to learning music.
“We shall overcome some day”. The words of this song, popular the world over, have never been more relevant today as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic.
They acquire added meaning when Nikhil Saiprasad plays the tune on the keyboard. They sum up the journey this 19-year-old youngster with autism has been through.
Diagnosed with autism when he was a little over two years old, Nikhil had speech and communication delays. Doctors at Muscat, where his parents were based at the time, did not notice. While he was otherwise non-verbal, he would respond instinctively to music.
“A child who could not converse was able to sing songs, repeat jargons from TV ads and loved listening to music”, recalls mother Sindhu Saiprasad, a certified special educator. “As a song would begin, he would recognise the tune”.
Early response to music
It was when the Saiprasads were holidaying in Kerala that Nikhil’s condition was diagnosed as autism. “It was devastating news for us”, says Sindhu, “but I could easily mould myself into the acceptance stage”.
Sindhu chose to stay back in India with her parents. At the time, there were not many resources available in Palakkad for children with disabilities. Support came when Sindhu relocated to Coimbatore with Nikhil. A young special educator there took Nikhil under her wing. “She influenced him in a big way by building an interest in academics. Nikhil picked up the basics fast. He loved alphabets, colours, numbers and learnt other concepts. She also guided me to work with Nikhil”.
Therapy aside, Sindhu did her best to ensure that Nikhil had a regular upbringing. “Nikhil was taken in all kinds of public transport”, adds Sindhu. “In Tamil Nadu buses and public places are noisy but consistent exposure helped Nikhil to overcome auditory issues”. This included acquiring a taste for food of different textures.
By the age of seven, Nikhil was playing tunes on his toy piano. All he needed to do was hear a sing once and he could reproduce it perfectly. The talent got him noticed in school. He for chosen to sign and play the keyboard for the school assembly group. His artistic skills were honed when he was introduced to crayons and colour pencils to improve attention and reduce hyperactivity.
Life lessons learned with Nikhil
Through the years despite several health setbacks, Nikhil has kept these interests alive. Exposure to computers led to doors opening to the world of digital painting. On his Facebook page Nikhil’s Music & Art, he regularly posts images and videos of his latest projects.
In this autism journey with Nikhil, it was and still is an adventurous, sometimes catastrophic journey, as there is no user’s manual to deal with. This journey has taken me to a different dimension which is enriching and beautiful. He has taught us what unconditional love and acceptance is, and to find happiness in small moments. I want to bust the myth that autism kids are robotic without any emotions. – Sindhu Saiprasad, Nikhil’s mother
Anita Pradeep, whose son Brian is a well-known artist on the autism spectrum, says Sindhu’s positivity through the ups and downs is a source of great motivation. “It’s a rollercoaster journey but she handles it all with calm and positivity”.
Preetha Anoop Menon says Sindhu’s journey as a parent has taught her many lessons. “Since Nikhil is older than my son Sivaa I used to seek advice from her. Her journey raising Nikhil as an independent person with multiple talents is inspiring for many parents like me”.
Check out Nikhil’s work here
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