Why I feel sorry for Spiderman

So there are special needs school in Bahrain that do a wonderful job of catering to children with Down’s Syndrome and CP, but not a single ABA therapy center for children with autism on the whole island. There is one doctor qualified to diagnose for autism, but he doesn’t, because he feels he is cheating parents by presenting their children with a plan of action that no one in the entire country can implement. We met over forty parents desperate for a diagnosis, and people begging us to open up as soon as possible because there were no treatment options for their children and time was ticking. Bahrain was eye-opening, welcoming, depressing, and amazing in so many ways.

And Pakistan- wow, I didn’t even talk about Pakistan. People are pretty much in the same boat. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, if you have a child with autism, you’re on your own.

I go to sleep at night with half-baked ideas churning in my head for how the heck ABA therapy can be brought to Pakistan and Bahrain. We have someone in Bahrain who is well-placed to become a local partner, but no one in Pakistan yet. And when I think of the thousands and thousands of children never getting diagnosis or help, and the stress their parents are in, and the paralyzing fear of watching a non-verbal, completely dependent child grow into a non-verbal, completely dependent adults with no way of earning a living, caring for themselves, or even being able to feed themselves- I get really, really overwhelmed.

And being unable to separate my professional self from the parental self, it just makes me want to cry. I can’t help everyone. I can’t save the world. I’m one single parent and I’m starting with four ABA therapists and I’m starting in Dubai and it may be a very, very long time before I can do anything in Pakistan. The only thing I can think of is appealing to wealthy overseas Pakistanis to help sponsor the training of Pakistanis so that we begin to grow a community of local therapists, because the cost of importing therapists to Pakistan (as well as Bahrain, btw) is well beyond unsustainable. The distance between a Dubai salary and a Pakistan salary can be measured in light years. People spend, for a nice family dinner one night in Dubai, the amount that a middle class family in Pakistan will earn in a whole month.

I feel sorry for superheroes sometimes. If he were real, I’m sure Spiderman would lie awake at night (when, and if he attempted to sleep) beating himself up about crimes that happened two blocks away from another crime that he was busy preventing, because he can only be in one place in one time, and he can’t save everyone from everything.

But here is where I have an advantage over Spiderman. I believe in Allah. And I know that he will only ask me about what I was capable of doing, and that the ultimate responsibility and care and guardianship of every one of those non-verbal, completely dependent children is with Allah. Whatever their situation is, whatever their parents and families are going through, Allah has promised that it isn’t more than they can handle, and the entire purpose of hardship is purification, fortification, and evolution of the soul. And I remember how proud one mother in Bahrain was as she told me that her blind, autistic, non-verbal daughter was inventing her own sign language. She was beaming, and I could tell from the look in her eyes that there was joy, not bitterness.

If Spiderman were real, he would have to believe in God, and he would have to believe in a Day of Judgment where all the muggers, murderers, rapists, child molesters who managed to get away with crimes while he slept were given their due. If he didn’t, he would have gone mad out of the sheer frustration and futility. He would be a man with his back against a tidal wave, being able to protect only the sand under his feet, if at all.

I am so, so grateful, SubhanAllahi wabihamdihi!- to know that the world has a Caretaker, and He’s not expecting me to do His job. I can help my fellow man, my fellow autism parents, the children that I think of like my own beautiful and silly son, and it is a benefit to myself and a purpose for my life, but it is not the filling in of any sort of gap. Allah leaves no gaps. Everything happens for a reason, and His reasons are always good ones.

So, if you happen to a rich Pakistani or Bahraini, or a human being who loves other human beings, and you’re interested in helping train ABA therapists for families who would otherwise not have access to ABA therapy for Allah knows how long, email me. Or leave a comment. Or just make dua. We can’t save the world, but there’s a little bit of sand in the palm of my hand, and if you can help me, we can try to keep it from getting washed away.


Abez is a 50% white, 50% Pakistani, and 100% Muslim. She is also chronically ill and terminally awesome. She is the ever-lovin Momma of: - Khalid, a special little boy with autism - Iman, a special little girl with especially big hair -Musfira, an especially devious baby Spoiler, Abez is also Zeba Khan on Muslimmatters.org.

  1. Abez

    Well, if you’re in Dubai, I am hoping to arrange a fundraiser by Jan 2011 at the latest, so it would be a pleasure to meet you there. 🙂

    If you’re outside of the UAE, let me look into how funds can be transferred (this has to be done through the proper legal channels) and I will post an update once we have the infrastructure set up.

    And JazakAllahuKheiran for asking. In the mean time, duas are greatly appreciated. 🙂

  2. Mahwish

    Oh goody. In Dubai i am so shall meet you in Jan InshAllah.
    In the meanwhile, lots of duas coming your way 🙂

  3. Owl

    Well, personally I thought it was bad enough the poor guy was stuck in a red and blue latex suit all day. He must feel like a lozenge.

  4. Carol

    You and your family always have my prayers and now your new child- AustimUAE and all the children it hopes to help will be part of the family too. Prayers for peace, focus and joy. Remember. when you are doing God’s work, He’s in charge, He’s the boss, so get his imput through prayerfully considered plans and He will be your partner. YOU have strong shoulders, but God’s are stronger. He is your primary business partner and support. God bless and protect you, your therapists and your agency and guide you to serve his silent angels.

  5. Abez

    Owl- hehe, I never thought of him that way. I pity whoever has to do his laundry…

    Momma- Aw, thanks. I need lots of prayers. Though I would never dare to compare anything we’re doing to what angels do (since that would be both arrogance and blasphemy) but your advice is spot-on. God’s in charge, and I need to ask Him for help and guidance in all things. 🙂 Love you!

  6. Argentyne

    Assalamualaikum wa rehmatullahi wa barkatuhu Abez 🙂

    I read your ‘Finding Dawud’ story in my RSS feed from MuslimMatters and loved it, went over to comment but I guess MM’s taken it down? Anyway, I then proceeded to devour your blog (in office *gulp*) (which you can probably see from the WordPress stats) and I just wanted to tell you that masha’allah you’re an amazing writer, I was laughing out loud at quite a few of your posts especially the one about HF and why cats are like chai 😀 Masha’allah, I hope you keep writing and please please write a book 🙂 I’ll order a dozen copies myself.

    Much love.

  7. Abez

    Walaikum Assalam Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu Argentyne-

    Yeah, that was accidentally published and then unpublished, but the RSS readers picked it up anyway. It should properly be up there in the second week of November, I think. 🙂

    I don’t know if I can write a book, I think I’m too busy trying to live the life that the book could be written about, but that’s a nice idea, and thanks for the words of support. 🙂 I’m all embarrassed now, but in a good way. 🙂

  8. Nida

    Dear Abez,
    i am a Pakistani and live in Islamabad, i would like to share more details but if you could please send me an email ID i will be able to write in detail, i am not rich but Alhamdolilah i think that i am blessed in many other ways, i would like to be involved with the work you are doing, i am not at all expereinced in handling children since i have none as yet but i just came back from Hajj two days back and i feel i need to help i feel i can…. so please do send an email so that we can figure out how i can be of any help.
    Nida Farukh Hussain
    Senior Manager Project Management

  9. Syra Amna

    zeba appi. im a 3rd grade teacher in Lahore, Pakistan. i know friends who are clinical psycholgists. let me know what i can help with.

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