Niyi's Autism Diary
Most Autism stories are riddled with a litany of woes, and almost always leave the listener or reader more disheartened than inspired. Although we do not discount the negative impact Autism has had on many lives and families, we are more inclined to the idea that the subject of Autism is not all ‘gloom and doom’, and bringing testimonies of the triumphs of some Autistic cases to light can help put traction in the efforts to change the global narrative on Autism.
NIYI’S AUTISM DIARY
(A journal of a Family’s journey through Autism from Despair to Hope)
DISCLAIMER: Although this is based on a true story, certain elements and scenarios have been fictionalized. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Niyi can barely hold still, he is as nervous as he is inattentive. He jerks, he makes uncertain sounds and he fixates on the most inconsiderable things. He is the picture of hyperactivity. He doesn’t make any eye contact with anyone, and when he does, it is fleeting. He is lost in his own world; a world not bound by the same rules as ours; where black is not necessarily black, and where numbers don’t always add up. Though physically present, the five year old is not really here; he is trapped in his own head, and you just wonder, what could have happened to the little boy?
You see, Niyi wasn’t always this way; he was born a healthy and vivacious little boy. He weighed four (4) kilograms at birth, and had a clean bill of health for the first two and half years of his life. Niyi’s parents, the Olaitans adored him so much that they christened him ”Olaniyi”, which in Yoruba means ”wealth is honorable”, ‘Niyi’ for short. Gbenga was certain he’d grow up to be a medical doctor. ‘’That’s cliché!’’ Teni would say; ‘’why not an astronaut? Our son should go to uncharted territories,’’ she would add. They had such high hopes for their little boy. Their dreams however became daunting when at two and half years old Niyi began to manifest regressive behaviour; he would refuse to play with anyone, and keep mostly to himself. At first, Gbenga & Teni Olaitan thought Niyi was probably just coming down with a fever, and quickly had him checked for malaria and the ‘usual’ infections that plague kids of his age, but the test results showed nothing.
As the weeks passed, things only got worse with Niyi: he would not eat, talk or sleep. He slid more and more into solo mode and threw a tantrum at the most impossible thing. And just when no one thought things could get any worse, then came the noises! He made such loud and repetitive sounds that put everyone on edge. Now, this scared the Olaitans! It was beginning to look to them like their son could be going insane!
‘’Did Niyi hit his head while playing around the house?’’ Gbenga asked Teni.
“Funny you should ask me that” Teni replied, obviously irritated by the question.
“I am asking you that because he is mostly under your watch Teni” Gbenga blurted.
“What sort of parent would that make me, if I kept such a thing under wraps”, Teni retorted!
‘’There is no history of madness in my family,’’ said Gbenga.
”If you are insinuating what I think you are, get a grip right away! There is no history of madness in mine too,’’ Teni countered.
“Pardon me my love, I am just a little overwhelmed,” begged Gbenga.
“I understand Gbenga, we are in this together,” said Teni.
‘’I cringe at what people might say Teni, our society doesn’t take kindly to insanity,’’ cried Gbenga.
‘’Tongues are already wagging my dear, you can’t stop people from talking,’’ replied Teni.
‘’What have you heard?’’ queried Gbenga curiously.
‘’Mama Suki has been telling our other neighbours that she thinks our son Niyi has a spiritual problem!’’ said Teni.
‘’A spiritual problem?’’ Gbenga asked wide eyed.
‘’Yeah, they think our son has been possessed by evil spirits,’’ replied Teni
‘’That’s just preposterous! Who would believe such a thing,’’ fumed Gbenga
‘’Well, apparently our neighbours do, with good reason too,’’ Teni whispered.
‘’Are you thinking, it might be true Teni?’’ Gbenga asked shocked.
‘’If you think about it, there has to be an explanation for all of this Gbenga; people don’t just suddenly go raving mad without cause,’’ Teni said solemnly.
‘’So you are saying that Niyi, our Niyi! Could be demon possessed?’’ Gbenga asked, more to himself than to Teni.
Teni is quiet.
Gbenga is quiet too. He is in a quandary between getting angry at the suggestion that their son’s problem may be of spiritual origins, and his unrestrained desire to see him get better.
(TO BE CONTINUED)