Raising two differently abled kids alone has been more than challenging for Martin Kilavi. He shares how he has been managing.\u00a0 Martin Kilavi\u2019s first born son, Joshua Kilavi is an expert keyboardist. His second born, a daughter, Sarah Mwikali Martin on the hand has an eye for fashion and beauty. But the two children aged 20 and 15 years respectively are autistic. Kilavi recalls the first time he held his son in his hands 20 years ago. He was overcome with joy, and hence made a vow to be present in his son\u2019s life. Joshua grew up a healthy baby. However, he had delayed milestones. \u201cWhen he turned two years, we opted to seek a doctor\u2019s advice,\u201d he says. The diagnosis? He was autistic. This came as a shock to the new parents. The fact that nobody in Kilavi\u2019s family had such a condition didn\u2019t make it easier. However, the two buried themselves in any book that could help them understand how best they could raise their little one. They became resilient and were determined to give their son the best. The Kilavis got another bundle of joy, a girl when Joshua was three years old. \u201cWhen Sarah was born, I didn\u2019t know what to expect because I still had\u00a0 little knowledge about autism. However, I felt that God always gives us what we can be able to endure by his grace,\u201d Kilavi explains. A few months later, history repeated itself. This time, Kilavi discovered it early as he had experience raising Joshua. He even become more dedicated to raising his children and learning about autism.\u00a0 Martin, his son Joshua Kilavi and daughter Sarah Mwikali. Photo\/PD\/SANDRA WEKESA Kilavi says his partner couldn\u2019t take it anymore and the two went separate ways six years ago, when Joshua and Sarah were 14 and nine years old respectively. \u201cWhen she left, I was worried about how I could put on two hats\u2014 being both a father and mother to the children,\u201d he adds. When it came to schooling, Kilavi didn\u2019t give much thought on taking them to a special school. He was hopeful that the children would be able to go through normal schooling. Helping children adapt to life Although at first they faced several challenges such as stigma, the family was determined to go through it together. \u201cI thought taking Joshua to a special school would stagnate him. Also, the fact that there is life after school for him always meant that he had to face life head on and so, being in a normal school would help him adapt to life,\u201d Kilavi notes.\u00a0 But after his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam in 2012, Joshua managed to score 189 marks out of 500. \u201cTo be realistic, I expected less. I was so proud of him. But the challenge was finding a good secondary school for him,\u201d he adds. After tarmacking for a while, he was referred to Paul Mwangangi, director Kitengela International School who created space for both of his children to learn. Over the years, Joshua who is repetitive in nature has become a keyboard player. \u201cJoshua learned how to play the keyboard in church. Every time he watched someone play a keyboard, he would start playing an imaginary one. Eventually, he started training and became an expert while at it,\u201d he says. Sarah who isn\u2019t social is curious about fashion, make-up and beauty and likes experimenting. Despite his busy schedule as a trained aircraft technician, Kilavi is keen in ensuring that he spends quality time with his children. His close family and a few friends have also made an impact in his children\u2019s life. For example, his friend Mohamed Dahir Burale, recently purchased for Joshua an electric cooker that has helped him develop new skills in cooking, which is done under close supervision. Kilavi\u2019s special friend, Maureen Mbithe, has also walked with him through the journey of being a single parent. \u201cI remember when Sarah\u2019s menses started, I panicked. I had no idea of what to do. Maureen was of great help, helping me understand Sarah from a woman\u2019s perspective,\u201d he reveals. His pastor, Rev Michael Musango, and his wife, Mercy Love Musango of Fountain of Grace Church, Athi River held his hand through difficult moments. Currently Joshua is enrolled at Machakos Technical School For The Blind where he is training in Shiatsu, a massage therapy, under close supervision of his teacher Catherine Mueni, while Sarah is about to sit for her International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). For now, Kilavi is optimistic that the future is bright. \u201cWe have come from far. The children had to go through speech therapy to communicate effectively. They now respond in short sentences. They can do their own laundry, do chores such as washing dishes and basic cooking- Joshua prepares delicious omelettes and follow up shows in their laptop,\u201d he says.