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

Walk for #Autism, Dubai


The Walk for Autism took place at Za’abeel Park yesterday, April 30, 2011. Registrations opened at 4pm and the walk was meant to start at 5pm; Mom, Karan and I got there around 4:50pm because we knew that if Karan was made to wait around for too long, he’d get irritated. We registered and got our hands stamped so we could enter the park without paying the customary Dhs5 entry fee.


Then we faffed around with a few pics and clicks:


It was a few minutes past 5pm and we figured we should take Karan to the toilet. The perennial problem of disabled toilets being *inside* the male/female enclosure arose, but I walked into the female toilet, cleared my throat and told the women inside that my brother has autism and he cannot go to the toilet alone, so could I bring him in? Everyone said, yes of course and I quickly took him in.

When I came out, the walk had just started!


The walk is usually quite short. So we took two rounds instead of just the one. There were many people there, families, individuals, companies even. My placard got quite a bit of attention. I was asked about 4-5 times if I would allow a photograph taken of me and Karan together; I said yes. Video cameras also joined in; I was followed for a good few seconds by at least two videographers. Yay, more awareness!

After the walk, the base of the amphitheatre-like area was filled with stalls, and Dubai Drums was putting on a performance.


Karan was thirsty, natch 🙂


And we found Karan’s school, Manzil (for whom I might add, we’re collecting books next weekend, to donate to them for their fundraising booksale) had a stand at the walk too!


When we were leaving, Karan decided to plop down near the fountain and take a good and long look!


Thanks to all the organizers of the event, to the people who put up stalls and to everyone to attended. A lovely evening.

Karan goes back to art!

Guest post by Adita Divecha, Karan’s mother

The second session was at the Raffles Hotel near Wafi.


When Karan and I got there, everyone was in the lobby.


Nicola came and took us to the third floor, to this huge banquet hall which was almost empty except for two large round tables.

Then representatives from the Raffles Hotel came and met all the kids and then said they would like us to look around the Botanical Gardens. There was a door which opened out onto a huge terrace and the Botanical Gardens were there. It’s actually the roof of the mall which they converted in a garden, with canals running through it with fish in them, surrounded by trees and flowers.

We then took a tour of the gardens. Karan was really excited especially when he saw the water.  I actually thought he was going to try jumping into it. There was also a fountain there and because there was a lot of wind, the water was spraying on his face which he really got excited about. He was in a happy mood.

Then we went back in and all the children sat on the tables on which were paintbrushes, paper and paint…even crayons and pencils. Karan only does his art with a brush and thick paint.


So he got to work, took the brush, dipped it into the bowl… “Dip and dab, dip and dab,” is what I have to keep telling him.

Everybody’s art was later kept on the side to dry. Karan did three paintings.


They even gave the children cookies and something to drink. Karan just had the chocolate cookie. He was very happy. One of the other girls kept saying, “don’t get so excited!”

Then they gave certificates to each child for attending the session. So all in all, it was a good day!

Remember #autism even after #DubaiTwestival

At Dubai Twestival, I was given the wonderful opportunity to speak for a few minutes about autism, given my personal interest in it. I remember having a vague idea – a bullet point list if you will – of things I wanted to cover in the 2-4 minutes I was allotted. Problem was, once I started talking…well, autism is something I can talk about for ages, so I went along my own meandering path, going wherever my synapses were telling me to go.

So…now that I can put pen to paper (or fingers-to-keyboard-to-screen) and try not to get distracted emotionally (as I did in the middle of what I was saying at Twestival…remembering how society in general has treated us sometimes was painful), here’s what I want to say to everyone reading… 

As I mentioned while talking, the awareness among people in Dubai about special needs and autism is appalling. It really is. Granted, there is so much more awareness over the last few years…but remember, I’ve been around in Dubai for dog’s years. I was here when Karan was diagnosed, I was here in the late 1990s when there was no help for us, I was here in the 2000s when we’ve faced problems over getting him into a good school. The general public just doesn’t know what it is. Either they’ve never heard of autism, or they have some fandangled opinions about it. The textbook definition will tell you that autism is a lifelong developmental disability where the person has impaired communication skills and social interaction, and can indulge in repetitive behaviour or be obsessed with something. It’s true enough. However, there are so many other issues…readers of this blog will know we’ve dealt with non-verbal issues (Karan does not speak to communicate with us), clothing issues, food issues, self-help issues and so much more.

One VERY important thing: if you’ve met one person with autism…you’ve met one person with autism. Each person with autism comes with their own set of unique challenges. The standard definition is like an umbrella, if you will. While that definition holds true, you’ll find n-number of differences with each autistic person who overcome completely different obstacles.

Now I’d like to appeal to organizations and businesses within the community. With the current rates of autism (1 in 110 globally, think it’s 1 in 100 in UK, lower in other places), within the next 5-10 years, we, the society, will have on our hands a massive number of adults with autism. It’s an employment resource just waiting to be tapped (and here I acknowledge that sadly, there are some adults whose autism is severe enough that they cannot work throughout their lives). Like in the neuro-typical (NT) world (or all you so-called “normal” people out there), it works the same here: if you’re good at something, that’s where you would like to get some work. Just because a person has special needs doesn’t mean they cannot be a productive member of society. It is so important for people with special needs – not monetarily, mind you – to have a sense of self-respect and self-worth (and goodness knows a major chunk of society gives them no respect whatsoever). Employment is a way of enhancing self-esteem and self-worth, and gives dignity and acceptance to anyone. I know of a couple of organizations in the UAE that do take on interns with special needs and give them jobs, as part of a social responsibility program. My brother’s school is heavily involved in placing their older students with organizations such as banks and hotels. Students are also encouraged to focus on an activity that they are good at and can hold them in good stead when it comes to future employment. Yes, it’s a little bit of extra work, and extra training… but trust me, organizations will find that once the person knows what he/she has to do, they will not stop at anything to get it done for you. Think about it.

So please… don’t forget about autism. It’s here to stay… it’s the so-called NTs that need to adjust.

Teething troubles with Karan

Guest post by Adita Divecha, Karan’s mother

One of the problems I face is that Karan does not like to open his mouth when you ask him to. This was quite a problem when his milk teeth were falling – some have still not fallen. When he feels the tooth is loose, he tries to pull it off with his fingers and keeps on fiddling with it. He makes his face, clothes, the sofa and the bedsheets all bloody. He does not allow me to check his mouth and holds it tightly shut. And he does not cry.

Sometimes he has put pencils or crayons in his mouth and its quite difficult to take them out. I have been bitten a few times while trying to take things out of his mouth. Right now, he is getting a new molar but the old one has not yet fallen. He was biting down on the right side of his mouth and grimacing so I thought he had hurt himself there or perhaps had a blister. After coaxing him for many days to open his mouth slightly wider, I have found that he is getting a new tooth except it is coming out in his palate on the right side next to the molar which has not yet fallen.

Something will have to be done to ease his discomfort. He is of course not going to sit in a dentist’s clinic and open his mouth to let the dentist check and do something about it. I have been told that children like Karan are usually taken to a hospital. Their teeth are checked and x-rayed and then worked on usually under anaesthesia as they refuse to sit in the chair, open their mouths and keep it open for the dentist to work on. I am sure that other kids also don’t like going to the dentist but with special kids like Karan it is difficult and different.