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Understanding Neurodiversity Through the Family Perspective: Keeping up with Gopika Kapoor

Team StoryWeavers|April 21, 2023, 12:59 IST|


Some children may pick this up within seconds; some may pick it up within days. This doesn’t mean they’re different from each other, but that they learn in different ways. A little extra support can help them skip the challenges of their neurodiversity and get there faster.

Last month, we launched “Common Ground: Understanding Diverse Perspectives” with Shreya Jain, Head, BYJU’S UNO, a series where we discuss Neurodiversity in detail. In the second part of this series, we spoke to Gopika Kapoor, neurodiversity consultant, parent advocate and author.

Gopika has a Master’s in Journalism from Northeastern University and has worked for over a decade with Ummeed Child Development Center, where she provided therapy for more than 400 families, conducted over 100 training sessions on varied aspects of autism and facilitated the WHO Caregiver Skills Training (CST) Program.

She has written other bestselling books, including Spiritual Parenting, Spiritual Pregnancy, Spiritual Relationships and Spiritual Success. She was also awarded the FICCI Ladies Organization (YFLO) Women Achievers Award for writing.

In 2020, Gopika published an extraordinarily insightful and heartwarming book on autism as a parent-professional – Beyond The Blue – a realistic, positive book for parents of children with autism that includes her personal journey, too.

During this session with BYJUites, Gopika helps us look at the various aspects of the neurodiversity community from two unique perspectives – a parent and a professional.

Gopika, who is based in Mumbai, lives with her husband and twins – Gayatri (who is neurotypical) and Vir (who is neurodiverse).

“From the time they were little, we began to see the differences as we learnt to recognise, and not just put together, being twins. Their personalities and the way they interact with people is very different,” shared Gopika.

She said Gayatri is a wise child beyond her years and helps Gopika stay grounded. More importantly, she is very protective of her brother and, at the same time, will tell him off if he is doing something that he should be doing.

On the other hand, Vir has a crazy sense of humour, is great fun to hang out with, and is restful to be around. He is interested in an array of things, from robotics to baking, and Gopika shares that life is fascinating with him around.

Accepting Vir’s Neurodiversity

Vir was diagnosed when he was three years old. The differences become apparent regarding the children’s interactions with everyday situations and scenarios.

“There was a voice inside me, which said, ‘yes, he is different. But I suppressed that voice because I was too scared to deal with it,” Gopika said.

After reading a couple of articles, Gopika was convinced that Vir had Dyslexia. But, post a pediatric diagnosis, she was shocked to learn that he had autism. Eventually, it became a part of who they were and how they interacted with him.

Everything went well until school happened.

“Schooling was a big stress point in my life. While nursery was okay, education beyond that point became challenging. We were told that the schools were inclusive, but on revealing the diagnosis, they would deny admission,” she said.

They finally went to a school, where they didn’t reveal the diagnosis, which most people are still in disbelief of. However, three months later, the school figures out that Vir has learning challenges and eventually asks them to leave the school at the end of the year. However, with the introduction of a new special educator in the school, there was a complete turnaround, and Vir had shown much progress.

She says, “This just proves that if you help a child with learning needs, there will be progress. This will not be the case if you put a neurodiverse learner in a classroom full of students.”

But when things did not look very positive, they shifted him to a particular school. Here, he was able to learn better. In April, he finished Class 10 and is now pursuing life skills and finding a career direction for himself.

Beyond the Blue

“When you have a child on the spectrum, it’s not just an impact on them but also the family, extended family and the community they live in,” said Gopika.

Over the years, Gopika has accumulated experience as a parent and therapist. She said, “There was all this knowledge that was accumulated, yet no written document about it. That’s when I wanted to make my voice heard,” she said.

That’s when she channelled it into her first book, Beyond the Blue, a book for parents of children with autism that includes Gopika’s personal experiences of dealing with the condition.

Breaking the Barriers

Gopika talked about an instance where they went on a holiday with their friends and a helper who took care of their young son. The helper looked at Vir and said, “Kya hai yeh ladke ko?” – “I remember being outraged by that,” recalled Gopika, among other horrible instances.

She added, “I realised that I didn’t want my son to be first in the race, but just be a participant. People who are neurodiverse need a seat at a table.”

Later she adds that if the helper had made that same statement today, she would’ve sat her down to explain autism and neurodiversity.

Gopika went on to share that the neurodiverse perspective can offer solutions in such unique ways that the neurotypical mind would’ve never considered. She goes on to share an experience when Vir, too, shares his makeshift or ‘jugaad’ innovation of stopping a leakage at their home.

She shared her goal moving forward: “The 6 F’s – functioning, family, fitness, friends, fun & future, categorise my vision for an inclusive world. I want these six factors in a child’s life.”

“To be an ally, it’s important to respect, to be open and let them be,” shared Gopika, “They may not fit into the typical social expectation, and we must understand that.”

Watch the video to understand Gopika’s journey as a neurodiversity consultant and parent and how she braved the challenges to ensure a smooth journey, not just for Vir, but for the many children like him, who can do so much better with a small helping hand.

BYJU’S Education for All is on a mission to empower 10 million children by 2025 with education. Through the BYJU’S Give programme, you can contribute to this movement and help children with quality digital learning. You can donate an old device, which we will refurbish, and then use the money raised to buy a new device. In case you do not have a device, you can also donate to an NGO partner, who will use the funds to buy devices for children.

In both cases, we will load our BYJU’S Think & Learn premium content onto these devices and distribute them to children in need.

Also read: Understanding Neurodiversity at the Workplace: In Conversation with Roshni Kavina

About the Author

Anju is a peace-lover, a video-game addict, and a childhood doodler who imagined that the scribbles were words. This storyteller enjoys a good read, some doodling, and learning new languages. One day, she hopes to write her own story someday, and hopefully in the French language, too! She never loses hope of making the world a better place to live in.

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