World Autism Awareness Day was on April 2, 2021. People First Alliance, our LIFE Group (employee resource group) that celebrates neurodiversity helped organize a series of activities to help Nutanix employees (or “Nutants” as we call ourselves here), understand neurodiversity and what inclusion looks like at work.
These activities included Nutanix employees sharing personal stories about their experiences with neurodiversity and parenting special needs children. One moving story was shared by Nutant Eyal Baruch, a Technical Programs Senior Manager, who explored the joys, challenges, and celebrations he has experienced raising his son, Ofir, who has autism.
Here is what Eyal had to say.
When I was in high school I volunteered for four years at a center for people with cognitive disabilities. It was two hours each week that I cherished and no matter what the weather was, I used to go to the center. I used to play basketball with the people in the center. Some of the people at the center needed to have the ball passed to them many times until they managed to get the ball in the hoop, but once they did, we made a big celebration out of this to encourage them to not give up.
The people at the center were some of the most amazing and kind people you could think of, and without a drop of ill intent. Volunteering there taught me acceptance of each person, and that it was important to love them exactly as they were. At the time, little did I know how this experience would help to guide my life in the future.
Ofir, my son, was diagnosed with severe Autism at the age of 3. The autism diagnosis changed our life. We started a process to advance my son as much as we can. It was, and still is, hard and at times very frustrating because the advancement that you see happening occurs in very small steps, with long stretches in-between each “win.”
During this journey we were not alone. We were surrounded by friends and family that were there to support us. They accepted us and Ofir as we were. We travel, go out to eat, and during all this, Ofir was with us with his huge smile and the most amazing dimples. But there were times when people would look at us with judgement and criticism about Ofir’s behaviors, often reacting or commenting based on their ignorant assumptions. Was it painful? Yes. But in all of those times we had our friends to support us and also fight for us.
Ofir has also taught me some valuable lessons. He’s taught me to adapt, to appreciate what I have, to never give up, to find joy in and cherish little things, and to think outside of the box when searching for solutions.
10 years ago, when Ofir was 8 years old, we moved to the US from Israel. Needless to say, while in Israel, the only language people spoke to Ofir was Hebrew and that was the only language that he understood. One of our main concerns was how he would manage with English. Amazingly enough, although Ofir is non-verbal, he understands two languages - Hebew and English. And with the few words that he does know, he knows to use Hebrew with Hebrew speaking people and English with English speaking people.
Why am I telling this story? I share it because if Ofir was able to manage learning a second language even with his disabilities, it describes a good lesson about why it is important to never give up on a challenge no matter what it is. And I offer this as support for other parents of children with special needs, to say that you should never give up, you will always be amazed at what your child can accomplish.
Ofir is now 18 years old and the journey continues.
Thank you for Eyal and Ofir for sharing their story with us. To learn more about how Nutanix fosters diversity inclusion visit us online.
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