Autistic talent shines bright

Children on the autism spectrum often face challenges in communication, social skills, and learning.
Aditya Jonnalagadda, a 24-year-old employee at SV Marketing, is not only a dedicated worker but also a talented Carnatic musician
Aditya Jonnalagadda, a 24-year-old employee at SV Marketing, is not only a dedicated worker but also a talented Carnatic musician

HYDERABAD: Every child has a unique talent, whether they are neurotypical or specially-abled. On World Autistic Pride Day, observed on June 18, we celebrate autistic individuals with special talents and speak to their parents about their unique journeys.

Aditya Jonnalagadda, classical singer

Aditya Jonnalagadda, a 24-year-old employee at SV Marketing, is not only a dedicated worker but also a talented Carnatic musician who holds solo concerts. Born into a musically inclined family — his mother, Yamini Jonnalagadda, is a music teacher, and his maternal grandmother retired as the Principal of the Government Music College, Secunderabad — Aditya began singing even before he could talk.

Being on the autism spectrum, his speech was delayed and remains limited. He started imitating music by listening to his mother’s students during their classes and began attending concerts of great musicians from an early age. Despite being unable to sit through a movie, he can attentively listen to a full-length concert, understanding the patterns and identifying the ragas.

His mother was his first guru, and after his voice broke during his teenage years, he studied under Sri Ch Kyvalya Kumar for the past ten years. His guru taught him as a typical student, maintaining high standards and teaching intricate lessons without compromising on quality, which helped Aditya sing almost like any other student. Aditya gave his first solo performance on April 2, 2016, and has been performing solo concerts ever since, winning many prizes in music competitions against regular music students.

“Aditya has an extraordinary, god-gifted memory, allowing him to recall long and complex Carnatic music lessons. He listens to classical music on his iPad and knows famous singers. He idolised MS Subbulakshmi and Bombay Jayashree as a child. As he grew older, he began following male singers and now enjoys the music of OS Arun, Malladi Brothers, and Trichur Brothers,” Yamini told CE.

Apart from music, Aditya is a foodie at heart, well-trained to help in the kitchen, loves to cook, makes his own tea daily, and can prepare simple meals with a little help from his mother. He enjoys cycling daily and even goes to the gym regularly.

Children on the autism spectrum often face challenges in communication, social skills, and learning. Aditya’s parents never lost hope and, despite these challenges, helped him finish schooling through NIOS. He passed a four-year certificate course from Sri Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University with distinction. As part of vocational training, he completed a two-year diploma course in multimedia and dabbles in graphic design.

Kabir Vernal, artist

Kabir Vernal is a 12-year-old on the Autism Spectrum with a passion for art. He is a Gestalt Language Processor and communicates primarily through echolalic phrases. Kabir has been creating art for the past 8-9 years, enjoying the process of selecting colour palettes and subjects, and experimenting with various textures.

His artworks have been showcased in multiple national and international exhibitions, earning him recognition and praise. In September 2023, he had his first solo exhibition at Arpana Art Gallery in New Delhi. Additionally, his art is available for purchase on the Atypical Advantage website, a platform showcasing the talents of neurodiverse individuals from across the country.

Individuals on the Autism Spectrum often face various sensory processing challenges. They might be either sensitive (overreactive) to sensory stimuli and engage in behaviours to avoid them, or under-sensitive (under-reactive) and seek them out. These sensory needs can evolve over time. For Kabir, the need for sticky textures has been a consistent sensory requirement. Initially, his interest was piqued by sticky cello tape, but when that waned, his mother, Triveni Goswami Vernal, a Registered Special Educator and Psychologist, introduced him to finger painting.

Kabir quickly embraced finger painting, enjoying the feel of wet paints and the movement of his fingers and palms across different surfaces and textures. His mother then introduced him to Process Art, giving him access to various household and natural items to paint with. What began as an activity to satisfy his sensory needs soon developed into a beloved hobby and artistic pursuit.

Kabir has a clear vision for his artworks and a good sense of colour, often choosing his own palettes. He excels with abstract, loose art strokes. However, Triveni Goswami Vernal noted that he faces challenges with his tripod grip, which is necessary for holding pencils and other writing tools. While this may pose a challenge in writing, it has not hindered his ability to create beautiful art. Kabir’s primary joy comes from the process of creating, rather than focusing on the final product.

When asked about her feelings about Kabir’s success, his mother, Triveni Goswami Vernal, said, “It gives us immense pleasure to see his artwork being appreciated and received well by all. He has a long way to go, and we hope that he continues enjoying the process of creating art and it provides him with joy and happiness!”

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com