MUSIC is JR Nkosi’s preferred method of communication and he has, since receiving his first toy keyboard on his seventh birthday, never looked back.
The 15-year-old, who has been diagnosed as autistic, can play tunes flawlessly on his keyboard after hearing these just once.
“We could see that JR loved music from a young age. He was not interested in any other toys except for that keyboard so we decided to try and take him to a music tutor,” his mother, Yolande Nkosi, said.
Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex, lifelong disorder that manifests in various ways in different people.JR’s autism is characterised by extreme difficulty in communicating by using language and abstract concepts, hindering his ability to speak coherently, read and write.
Due to his inability to read or write, music teachers were unable to tutor JR and so he kept learning on his own.
“We were so disappointed at first, but we decided to buy a proper keyboard anyway, with the intention that I would learn how to play and JR could join in,” Nkosi said.
“One day my husband and I were in our room while JR was watching a gospel channel on the TV in our lounge. A few minutes later, he was playing the song he had just listened to on TV. We were so amazed.”
Since then, JR regularly plays at the Cambridge Catholic Church and at various organised events, including the Macadamia Harvest Festival.He has also played with the well-known FlipFlop band at an autism awareness concert last year.
The talented teen also performed during a visit by the education ministry to JR’s school – Parklands Special School – last year.
He has been invited to play at various birthday parties and events around East London, with his passion and enjoyment for performing shining through at each one.
“He is so full of love and he gets so excited when he plays for an audience. Seeing him smile on the stage and receive standing ovations makes me so happy,” said his mom.
“When we first learnt that our little boy had autism and that it was incurable, it felt like the end of my world. Not being able to communicate properly with your child is extremely frustrating, but watching him tell his story through music has been a blessing from God.”
JR will once again be playing at an autism awareness concert on Sunday April 1, at the Cambridge Catholic Church hall from 2pm to 6pm.
The concert serves as a means to create awareness and to invite a change in attitude towards people with autism and their families.
“The most challenging thing is the judgmental stares we, as parents to autistic children, often get. JR loves people, especially young children. He gets so excited and tries to talk to and hug everyone, but he cannot speak coherently, so people often think he is shouting at them or that he is angry,” Nkosi said.
“People don’t understand and having to try and explain the situation to them is difficult sometimes. This lack of understanding has a tremendous impact on families and communities.”
Hosted by the Nkosi family, the concert will see various autistic youngsters perform. The pupils will be joined by the Eternity Gospel Group and Ministries Worship team.
Tickets are R100 and all the proceeds will go towards assisting needy autistic pupils at local special needs schools.
For more information, contact Nkosi on 082-825-3613.