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.