Late night thoughts on autism

One night, I don’t know what came over me. I sat and tweeted everything in my mind at that moment that had to do with autism and my brother. My brother is nearly 16, and we’ve been living with autism since he was about 3. Thirteen years and I still haven’t figured everything out…everything there is to know about autism.

The people who support me and my family, you’re absolute darlings. Thank you.

I’m also on a quest to find special needs/autism bloggers in the UAE and Middle East. If anyone knows or hears of anyone, please buzz me 🙂

Also…Happy Birthday Mom! Karan would’ve been nowhere without everything you do for him, and you know it!

So…for a recap on my late-night thoughts, here: 

View the story “Talking about autism” on Storify]

A fun workshop with @startworld at Park Hyatt, Dubai

Karan has been going to START’s art workshops for a while now, and when we were told there was going to be one workshop held at Park Hyatt one weekend, we stuck our names down for it. It was the Eid weekend, and since I was free I decided to go with Karan (the usual workshops are on Tuesday’s in the evening when I’m at work).


Zara Mahmood howing us what to do

It was a whole lot of fun, with the kids (mixed, this one. That is, both special needs kids and the neuro-typical ones [NTs]) working with roller brushes, paint, glue, cardboard and paper.


Brushes, glue and paint!

And boy did we get messy!

We had to cut patterns out with cardboard, stick them on a bigger piece of cardboard, then paint all over it with the roller brushes and then put a paper on top to make a patterned painting. I made the patterns, Karan did the sticking and painting.
…except for this time when he decided he wanted to cut a bit and took the scissors from me!


That’s MY messy hand!

First up, I made a face, but since I let the paper stick on the cardboard for too long, it tore a bit and ended up looking like a skull more than anything else, haha.

Stages of the first painting

Next was a house, then a car, and then Karan’s handprint! Check them out:


Thanks to START and Park Hyatt for a great morning out, and Zara Mahmood for working with the kids 🙂


Getting an Emirates ID card for someone with special needs

Guest post by Adita Divecha, Karan’s mother

Last year, we (Karan, Devina and myself) went to get our Emirates ID cards done, but later on found out that since Karan was only 14 then, he did not require a card to be made.

So it was his turn this year, since he’d turned 15, to get the Emirates ID card. This time, Karan, his father (Rajiv) and myself went to the Emirates ID centre in Barsha.

When we went in, he was quiet, but started getting fidgety and making a few noises when he saw the crowd standing in a long line (most kids with autism don’t like crowded places). As I did last year, I spoke to the lady up front and asked if they could help us somehow because there was no way he would stand for too long without getting upset.

She sent us straight in to the supervisor, where they took all the details from Rajiv, while I sat with Karan. They were really nice about having to see us quickly, which was very helpful.

We had to get his photo taken there, so he sat in the chair, but when we asked him to look up, he ended up looking at the ceiling and closing his eyes. After multiple tries, he stared at the camera, but with one eye closed. After a few more tries, he looked straight with both his eyes open and they clicked immediately. But they ended up using the photograph we’d provided; I don’t think he looked at the camera as straight as he should have.

Next: fingerprinting. The person taking the fingerprints was there the last time we came and even though a year has passed, he remembered us! He asked if we’d come before to make sure.

First he held Karan’s right hand, while I spoke to him to keep him calm, and started rolling a finger from one side to the other (they have to take the prints of the finger in a sort of 360-degree way). Karan allowed him to do that for just three fingers before he decided he didn’t want to do this anymore. He refused to let anyone touch his hands.

Then, Rajiv, the fingerprinting man and the supervisor had to hold him, but Karan is quite strong and kept pushing. He did this without crying or showing he was angry. It’s funny, in retrospect, to see a 15-year-old boy nearly pushing three grown men away.

I was standing behind him, patting his back and reassuring him that everything was okay. Eventually, we finished all the fingers on the right hand, and had to move on to the palm. He did put his palm on the printing device but didn’t want to press it hard, so we had to apply the pressure for him.

It was with a lot of difficulty that we finished, but it was done! But then we still had the left hand to do as well.

Nothing doing, indicated Karan.

He stood up once he realized we had to move on to the other hand, pushed everyone away and refused to go near the chair again. Nothing would convince him to go back. Finally, they said it was okay. They said because he had autism and that was causing him to be uncomfortable with the procedure, they’d put in a special note for his application saying that because he wasn’t happy going through the necessary process, they’ve just taken one hand’s prints and that would suffice.

Even though Karan didn’t really cry through the entire time we were there, I could see the relief on his face when he figured out we were done.

As usual, we had people (those waiting in the centre for their applications) staring at Karan like he was some kind of pariah, I guess because he was rocking a bit now-and-then and making loud noises. Doesn’t matter so much but you’d think there would be more educated people in society nowadays. Pity.

But the staff at the centre were really helpful. Extremely understanding about it, and we had a very good experience with getting the card sorted with the least possible fuss. I can’t be thankful enough about that.

Our first @UAEArte

I was nervous. This was the first time I’d be placing Artism in the limelight, the first time I’d be seeing whether Karan’s work would be received well by the general public. I’m happy to say it went well and I’m looking forward to the next Ramadan market by ARTE on August 26, 2011 at Dubai Festival City, from 6-11pm.

It started out well, I got there at 5pm to set up and landed a sweet spot near the parking entrance, which meant loads of people saw my table first. Properly set up by about 5:30pm, people slowly started stopping at the table and having a look.


Many stopped by, commented on what was on offer, picked up the leaflet I’d printed out (which explained more about Artism) and almost all had something to tell me. To say I was overwhelmed by the encouragement would be accurate.

Karan stopped by too, with my parents. He sat at the table for a bit, then got excited (not sure why) and got a hold of one of his creations and energetically snapped it. Then began the rummage to find the beads that had exploded all over the place. He’s been told he’s going to have to make it again!

But the night went very well. We sold about 60% of the stock we had, with people asking if we took orders, which is great! Hope to see more people at the next one.

For the full set of photographs, check them out here.

Check out the snazzy slideshow of his work that was on display:

Tweets from the night:

View “Artism at ARTE” on Storify


If my brother didn’t have autism…

Inspired by this fantastic post from Love That Max.


“If I didn’t tell you, would you even know my brother has autism?”

If my brother didn’t have autism, I wouldn’t know as much as I do about various medicines, various therapies and feel like an expert in anything autism-related. As Ellen mentioned in her blog post, we’re all ready to open our own practices!

If my brother didn’t have autism, I wouldn’t have realized that something like drinking water from a glass is a milestone achievement. It’s when the kids achieve small things that everyone else takes for granted, that we appreciate it so much more. From being able to use a spoon, to drinking water, from being able to wear his socks on his own to understanding he’s not supposed to spit all over my photo frames (he still does this to annoy me, then looks at me from the corner of his eye and laughs at me as I come over, oh-so-angry) … we celebrate everything he does. No achievement is too small. It’s all AWESOME. He’s recently done something many children figure out before they are 4 or 5, and we are SO ecstatic. So ecstatic that we haven’t told anyone yet because we want to hug it to ourselves, be sure it’s here to stay before screaming it from the rooftops.

If my brother didn’t have autism, I would be so, so, so much more selfish than I already am. We’re all vain and selfish creatures – well most of us are (My Mom isn’t – hey Mom if you’re reading this, can we extend my curfew past midnight in lieu of the lavish praise? No? Okay.). And I’m quite honestly admitting I was, and sometimes am, a very selfish person and look out for myself. My brother’s autism has made me change my perspective about a few things, with me being less shallow than I could have been. 

If my brother didn’t have autism, I’d be more helpless than I am now. Unsure how to get things done.

If my brother didn’t have autism, I wouldn’t have realized what a wonderful world is out there, filled with families devoted to their children. I would never have realized how important it is to have passion in a family. I wouldn’t have felt this sense of community I do feel when I meet families with special needs.

If my brother didn’t have autism, I wouldn’t have had the courage to shout at truck drivers. True story.

If my brother didn’t have autism, I don’t think I would have loved him as much as I do now. We would’ve been the typical family, where I would bat him off for entering my room (now I always want him with me), where I would not have so many pics of him and me around, where I’d tell on him to my Mom for something he did. Oh wait, I still do the last thing 😉

If my brother didn’t have autism, I wouldn’t know what unconditional love means.

If my brother didn’t have autism, I wouldn’t have the a sense of empathy for other families who deal with special needs. Before we knew what autism was, I always had sympathy. Now I have none. I only have empathy. Because one thing I’ve realized families with special needs HATE… it’s sympathy and pity. Save it for yourselves. We just want to be understood.

If my brother didn’t have autism, I wouldn’t know who my real friends and supporters are. He helps weed out the trash from the gems. He helps keep the backward, mentally stunted (attitude-wise) and disgusting people away. I have real treasures with me because of him.

If my brother didn’t have autism, he wouldn’t be who he is – an amazing person who is smart and has a pretty decent sense of humour.

If my brother didn’t have autism, my life would never be same. He made me who I am, and for that I will always be grateful.


If you’re reading this blog, you’ll know my now 15-year-old brother has autism. He is a smart, funny and cute boy, who just happens to not be able to do things other “normal” 15-year-old’s can do. He is currently non-verbal in that he cannot talk to communicate his needs. There are many things he will not be able to do that everyone else takes for granted throughout their lives.

However, we are now launching something for him and by him. What is it?

Karan’s school has this program to get its students to become self-sufficient in something they could potentially make their livelihood. While some students are capable of doing admin work, like filing, photocopying and entering data into forms and things like that which could get them jobs in offices/hotels/banks, Karan isn’t up to that level. His work will mostly be of the artisan kind, and right now he’s doing very well in two things: painting and jewellery-making.

Right now, we’ve started off with making jewellery. I’ve had the very experienced Debbie (@GeordieArmani) have a look at initial pieces and she’s been very helpful with suggestions on how to improve and moving forward.

I’ll be putting up some pics of stuff he’s done, and will create a Facebook page soon to get more people interested in the know, and will hopefully be present at future ARTE (Artisans of the Emirates) events.

Today, I present to you: Artism.


Going for Karan’s first exhibition


July 28, 2011, a Thursday evening saw myself, Mom and Karan heading down to Farjam Collection gallery at DIFC. Karan was at the START art camp, and the gallery was hosting an exhibition of all the work the kids had done. Alongside the works of the START kids, were the paintings of children who had attended the Art camp as well.

Here’s a look at Karan’s work that was on exhibit; he also did the painting splotches in the lower right hand corner in the fifth pic in this gallery.


Some of the other things at the gallery that caught my eye:



Karan says…see you again!_mg_4943

Karan’s work on exhibit

Just a quick update to tell our readers that we’ve been told Karan’s paintings will be on display at an exhibition at the Farjam Collection Gallery at DIFC, tomorrow evening from 6pm onwards.

Trying to get confirmation on whether it’s just for a day, or will go on for a few more. The work on exhibit will be the ones he worked on while attending the Tuesday START workshops. Paintings from other participants at the START workshops will also be exhibited, so it will be quite an inspiring and fun exhibit I should think.

If anyone wants to come along with us tomorrow night, do let me know…would love to have you there!

Of Audi’s and art

Guest post by Adita Divecha, Karan’s mother

We’re back to Karan’s Tuesday art class at the Jam Jar.

This time, when we walked in, there were many people around. It seemed that the staff from Audi had volunteered for the day.

They wanted the children to paint cars; they had bought the small models of Audi cars and said we could dip them into the paint and roll the tyres across the paper to create painted wheel tracks.

Karan was very excited, I think because there were so many people around and they were taking photographs. He dipped the car in the paint and started making tracks on the paper. He seemed pretty excited about doing it and was pretty quick about it.

Since he doesn’t like getting paint on his fingers, I had to go wash his hands every now and then. The second time he used a paint brush but he wasn’t interested in painting cars, so he just made strokes with the brush the way he wanted to. For the third one, they gave him a sheet with an outline of the car but he didn’t want to stay in the line. He was laughing a lot and having fun.

After that, they kept large sheets of paper on the floor and had drawn a large sized Audi sports car…I think it was an R8. They asked if Karan would sit down on the floor and paint and we decided to give it a try. He was helped by one of the guys from Audi who sat with him. He painted the rear of the car dark blue and the rear shell of the car red and black and silver.

He was fine with sitting on the floor and moving his hands, as his strokes have improved.

As usual I did not take photos, and now Devina is upset because of that. The people from Audi had painted their faces and they seemed to be enjoying themselves along with the children. When we left, they gave each child one of the small car models.

Thanks to Audi and Start for the day!