My Story: Despite Autism Given Speech Difficulties, I Found My Calling In Music & Won The National Award Thrice

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Atypical Advantage

My Story: 'Despite Autism Given Speech Difficulties, I Found My Calling In Music & Won The National Award Thrice'

Autism is said to be a lifelong disorder, but it does not mean that it should bring a halt to achieving our dreams. Benzy Kumar is one such inspirational individual who found music to be her forte despite speech difficulties, and worked towards building her career as a musician.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that's carried lifelong with no proven cause or permanent cure. It can affect a person's social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech, and nonverbal communication, but with early interventions and various therapies, the symptoms can be improved in the long run. Over ten million children in the country are said to be affected by autism, and most of them have been subjected to some or other form of stigma due to their disability.

Those with special needs often require constant support and help, however, they do possess the same emotional cognition as any other individual. I, Benzy Kumar, am living proof of this fact. As a 27-year-old singer with autism, I've broken past many stigmas and myths to find my true calling. Today, due to my determination and my mother's conviction, I overcame my challenges and am now a recipient of three National awards.

Finding The Answer In Music

Back when I was born, neurodivergence was an alien concept in India, and my parents faced many hardships medically and socially to obtain the right diagnosis for me. My parents realised that I was not as responsive as a typical one-month-old baby, and a few doctors had also declared me bedridden for life. They never gave up and travelled all the way abroad to understand what their child was going through, and it was in the US that they finally confirmed that I have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The doctors also assured me that my symptoms might become less as I get older and with the right treatment, which gave a sense of hope to my parents.

At the time, my mother, Kavita Kumar, also noticed that I positively responded to the music being played on her tape recorder. Since then she has experimented with music, and it grew out to be a very significant part of my life. I heard a lot of Indian classical ragas and Gayatri mantras as I went to sleep and after I woke up. The music also helped me calm down at times when I felt aggressive or frustrated. Watching the healing impact music had on me, my parents introduced me to music therapy, and from there on, I started memorising and singing songs.

At the age of five, I started receiving proper training in Indian classical music. My vocal mentor would just sit by and recite notes and ragas, while I memorised them listening to him. Two years into my training, I took the leap and did my first-ever stage show. The performance left the crowd impressed, and it inspired me to perform more. At the young age of nine, I released my first ever audio cassette titled 'Basic Ragas', and from there on, I haven't looked back.

There were many times I faced trouble adjusting to the new situations and the newer places it took me to. I was initially very uncomfortable with putting on the headphones while recording songs at the studio, but the people were kind enough to have me try and accustom myself to the new surroundings. Though the journey was not easy, I was determined to express myself through music, and it has now taken me to great heights.

Welcoming Flowers Of Appreciation

In spite of my inability to converse coherently, I have found my calling in music and have been able to release about ten audio CDs that have received praise from musical legends such as Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, and Adnan Sami. The songs also brought me three National Awards, two Limca Book of Awards, and several other prestigious awards. From being a fragile baby in the incubator to winning the title of a record-setting musician, I have come a long way in overcoming my challenges with ASD. However, awards don't hold much value to me as much as people's appreciation does. It makes me even the more happier when I receive bouquets as a token of appreciation.

Thousands of performances later, I hope that I was able to motivate children like me into the mainstream and try their hand at things that interest them. Having seen the impact music has had on me, my mother founded the Dhoon Foundation in 2007 with the idea to help disabled children establish themselves as artists in society so that they could feel motivated and seen. Hardships may come and go, but they should never stop one from achieving their dreams. Today the foundation has become an enabler for many children with autism to step forward and dream big.

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Contributors Suggest Correction
Writer : Laxmi Mohan Kumar
Editor : Shiva Chaudhary
Creatives : Laxmi Mohan Kumar

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