Ussaid Shaikh is an 18 years young adult who has chased his dreams of being a dancer fighting his developmental challenges. We will know more about him through his mother’s words:

“Ussaid was one and a half years young when he was diagnosed of autism. His speech was delayed and he didn’t respond much to people around him. He has been undergoing therapy since then. He was fond of music and started playing the piano and keyboard ever since he was four years old. He continued to play it till he was 13. He has been doing various physical activities since childhood, like tennis, skating and swimming which have been very helpful with his development.

When he was in his tenth standard, he observed that his friends were getting public attention from dancing. He started imitating their dance moves. I was surprised when his professors informed me about Ussaid’s talent in dancing and they suggested that he should be trained in dance.

I was overwhelmed to see him perform at his fresher’s party. I couldn’t resist encouraging him after seeing his enthusiasm and eagerness towards dance. I started noticing changes in him. He was no more distracted with the loud music and dance took away his sensory pain. He was confident on stage and well in-sync with his co-dancers and he never missed a move.

A competition had come up and he called his dance teacher to choreograph a song for him. We recorded him dancing and sent it out for a competition. Later I got to know that he was selected for the competition and to add to my excitement, I realised through Facebook that he was selected from a pool of dancers who were regular children from all over India.

Last summer, he had gone for a stage show with the Bollywood choreographer Shiamak Davar, through his friends. Mr. Davar noticed him and appreciated the hard work he put in. One day Ussaid got a call from Shiamak’s academy to tell him that they wanted him to be part of their professional dancing team and officially he will be getting paid. I was confused about sending him, since it was his twelfth standard academic year. I got advice from many people to not send him as it will distract him from his studies since involved six to seven hours of daily rehearsals. But I didn’t want take this opportunity away from my child either.

He is so fond of dancing that when it comes to his dance practice and programmes, Ussaid adjusts very well to a hectic schedule, last minute change in the schedule, long hours of rehearsals, quick costume changes, new locations and new choreographers – things children with autism and their parents struggle to cope with. He had a hectic schedule during the academic year which he balanced very well. He had to take direct instructions and act accordingly, change his costumes in two to three minutes, sync himself with the song and the dance moves. Every time it was a new location, new choreography and I watched him adapt to everything with wonder and admiration in my eyes.

He used to get only two hours to study after his rehearsals and other daily schedules and still he made me extremely proud and happy that he scored 70% marks in his twelfth standard board exams. It was not an easy task for him to do all these things due to his autistic history, but he worked hard to achieve what he wanted. I was surprised by how being physically active and having fun doing that had changed him drastically into a different person.”