A family in Laikipia chose to celebrate the World Autism Day differently by exhibiting the artistic work of their 17-year-old autistic son, fetching more than Sh120,000 from sales of the drawings.
Kilean Nicholson, better known as Bola, can neither speak nor write but has a passion for drawing aeroplanes, an indication of his desire to fly.
Clearly, he derived his ambition from his father, Mr Michael Nicholson, a pilot.
The family gathered at Soames Hotel in Nanyuki on Easter Monday where 55 of Bola’s drawings were exhibited, selling at between Sh2,500 and Sh4,000 depending on size.
Within two hours, 51 drawings had been sold to the delight of the boy’s mother, Mrs Bella Nicholson, who described the success of the event as a wake up call for mothers with autistic children.
“Some mothers are shy of showing their autistic children to the world but I would encourage them not to regard this condition as a curse but instead strive to identify the talents they have and grow them,” Mrs Nicholson said.
She admitted there have been challenges bringing up such a child but described Bola as a source of encouragement.
“To a professional artists or to an individual who appreciates fine art, these are just sketches that cannot elicit any interest. But to us, it is a great source of inspiration since it is our son’s expression from the heart,” she said.
Those who attended the event included Ms Vanessa Hanka, mother of 17-year-old Saskia Hanka who is also autistic.
Saskia was enrolled for five years at Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) classes in England.
After the therapy, Saskia is now in school, can speak and write and leads a normal life.
“Though at times she still displays autistic behaviour, the therapy she got in England greatly improved the condition and I just wish such facilities were available here in Kenya,” her mother said.
Ms Jacinta Silakan, a nurse at Aga Khan University Hospital, and who has a 20-year-old autistic son, aims to sensitise the pastoralist community of Laikipia North on the need to accept and appreciate children with various forms of disabilities.
“My pastoralist community regards children born with disability as a curse and at times the infants are killed.
"Those who survive are mistreated since they are deemed to be of no economic or social value to the family,” Ms Silakan, the founder of Sang’inda Foundation, said.