Self-taught autistic teen to play in concert with FlipFlop

An autistic teen who taught himself to play the keyboard will perform in a concert with the well-known FlipFlop band on World Autism Awareness Day next week.

JR Nkosi, 14, a pupil at Parklands Special School in East London, started playing the keyboard at the age of six.


His mother, Yolande Nkosi said they were unaware of his condition until he was three, when they realised he didn’t speak like other kids his age.

Autism is a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

“From a young age we could see that he loved music. His favourite singer was Michael Jackson,” said Nkosi. “He used to watch his DVDs all the time. He didn’t play with any of his toys. We bought him a kiddies’ keyboard and he played it instantly. I wanted to take him for lessons but I was told I can’t because of the communication barrier,” she said.

Despite being told her son would not be taken for lessons, Nkosi said she and her husband TJ decided to purchase a proper keyboard anyway.

“I also wanted to learn how to play it and I got a tutor who would give me lessons. We were hoping that JR would join us but he never did.

“One day we were in the room and a Joyous Celebration song was on and next thing we heard was the keyboard. JR was playing the song. We could not believe it,” she said. Since then JR has played many songs and some are his own compositions.

“We sing together. Usually I will tell him which song to play and sometimes he will start playing his own music. I try to improvise with lyrics and we end up calling those songs ‘mama’s song’ or ‘tata’s song’.”

While having an autistic child has not been easy, Nkosi said they believed that JR was their gift from God.

“His inability to communicate verbally has been more than sufficiently compensated by the melody coming from his twinkle fingers.

“He feels what he plays and he makes sure that he renders something pure when he does,” she said.

Nkosi said they hoped the concert next Sunday at Legends Showcase would inspire other parents to encourage their autistic children to explore their talents.

“What else does one want from God if one is so abundantly gifted with a polished gem that needs no further polishing? We have witnessed God’s divine intervention through our beloved JR,” she said.

Parents with autistic children that would like to take part in the concert can contact Nkosi on 082-825-3613.

Tickets for the show cost R150 and are available at Lee Gold Music.

Proceeds will go towards Parklands Special School. —

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