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Monthly Archives: October 2011

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Because I’m the boss, applesauce.

One day, when I have a desk, I’m going to have a plaque on it, but it’s not going to say ‘Director,’ it’s going to say ‘Humanitarian Misanthropist,’ and that way they’ll know that I’m there to help kids get treatment for a fraction of the normal cost, but if they argue with me about 200 dirhams a month for transportation, then I’m going to show them the door. With my foot.


Well, Khalid is back at his old school and Iman is happy to be going along with him. I’ve yet to visit the old school and formalize their removal, but I’ll definitely be doing so- especially since we paid half the fees in advance!

Khalid was immediately happier back in familiar settings- the first day on the playground was a mini-reunion. His KG-1 friends who were now spread through various KG-2’s found him and welcomed him back, even telling their parents about his return. Khalid is a bit of a celebrity in the school, not because he’s famous in any respect, but because he will greet every person he sees warmly. The janitors, the school nurse, the lunch room guy- they all love him and I feel like I’m walking in Khalid’s shadow when I pass through the halls with him. Everyone knows Khalid, almost no one knows me to be his mother. ūüôā Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah. Of course, it’s a completely different issue that Khalid’s class hasn’t had an English teacher for the entire week, but for the moment, Khalid is happy. ¬†And, as is to be expected- SubhanAllah- his spontaneous verbal skills are taking off again. ¬†He was becoming less talkative over the summer with no one but the immediate family around, but now that he’s back in school there’s an immediate difference. ¬†Take, for example, this overhead conversation.

Khalid: Musfira, look! It’s the cut the rope. ¬†I will show you.

Musfira: Pbbbbt?

Khalid: You feed the frog the candy. ¬†It’s Om-Nom. Collect the stars.

Musfira: Eeeee!

Khalid: I’ll show you. ¬†Oops, two stars. You need three stars. ¬†Not four stars. ¬†Like this.

Compare this to conversations that I have with Khalid where he gives me one-word replies for the most part. ¬†Khalid isn’t interested in talking to adults, but he’ll give a 4-month baby an iPhone game tutorial.

Speaking of 4-month old babies, Alhamdulillah, Musfira rolled over about two days ago. ¬†Soon she’ll be crawling. ¬†Shortly thereafter, driving. ¬†Where does the time go? And where did she learn to generate such ear-piercing shrieks of joy? It was my hope that her personality as a child would be an extension of her personality as a baby. ¬†Iman is an intense little girl, and she was an intense baby as well. ¬†Musfira has, so far, been a happy and social baby, and I was hoping that would continue indefinitely. ¬†She’s turning up the volume though lately, and twisting mini-teddy into half-nelsons while chomping his mini-teddy head, and squealing so loud, so long, and so non-stop that a staff meeting had to be put on hold yesterday- three therapists, one senior, one driver, and HF and I- because no one could hear each other over Musfira’s personal opera.


On a side note…

I’m definitely getting carpal tunnel in my left hand. Which makes typing very hard. Khalid’s old school (which we left because of it’s C- average as an educational institution) has a place for him. Which is far, far, better than nothing, Alhamdulillah. Tomorrow I go to meet the principal, InshaAllah. Alhamdulillah. ūüôā

In the mean time, here’s a question- what rewards you? What makes you feel warm and fuzzy and appreciated? This random survey is inspired by a rather rude but very astute thing that Mona said to me the other day. I was sharing my epiphany with her- that the harder I worked and the longer hours I clocked, the harder I found it to eat healthy. This, it would seem, is because I figure if I’m working this hard I deserve to eat tasty things. Mona’s reply? “You’re not a dog. Don’t reward yourself with food.”

(Right Brain: We’ve sent thirty emails and we haven’t eaten anything for the last seven hours, we deserve a scooby snack!)
(Left Brain: Do you have any idea how many calories are in scooby snacks?)
(Right Brain: Do you have any idea how long it took me to finish my email? Also, we haven’t cooked any dinner.)
(Left Brain: Point taken. Scooby-dooby-doo!)

After the initial shock (and possibly outrage) wore off, I had to agree with her. So here I am, trying to figure out what I can ‘reward’ myself with instead of food so that I can stop eating so poorly. I don’t have the finances (or the mindset, or the time) for retail therapy. And I am working for, InshaAllah, a reward from Allah, but it would seem that I need to tell the workaholic in me that he’s been a good doggy and deserves not a treat, but maybe some other calorie-free form of personal appreciation? Perhaps that will enable me to ‘cheat’ and ‘deprive’ myself of treats in favor of normal food?

So, what makes you feel appreciated?

Fifth Time’s the Charm?

School number four says they cannot offer Khalid the learning support he needs.

I say I already provide the support he needs, he comes with not just a shadow, but an ABA therapist.

They say their decision is final.

I wonder how they decided they couldn’t provide Khalid with the support he needs without ever having evaluated him to see what he needs in the first place!

Sheesh, at least give the kid a chance!


Dear Ms. Khalid’s Mom,

Unfortunately we are not able to accommodate Khalid this year, academically he fits in for Foundation Stage 2 but will require learning support assistance due to behavior and concentration age related expectations.  According to the age related assessment Khalid understood the questions that were asked by the teacher however did not answer and was constantly distracted by other things.

For your information admissions will re-open next year February, wishing Khaled all the best.

I have to wonder how the teacher can maintain that Khalid understood the teacher’s questions if he was not answering them? And whether all children distracted by a colorful and visually engaging rooms are denied admission.

On to school number four.

(Too cool for school)

The hunt continues to find Khalid a suitable English-speaking school that is autism-friendly, uses sound behavior¬†reinforcement principles (rather than education through intimidation) and doesn’t cost an arm, a leg, two kidneys and your left earlobe. ¬†I’ve been to three schools just today, dragging Khalid and Joy along for the ride and leaving a trail of bemused registrars in our wake.

“Does he know his colors?’


“Can he recognize letters?”

“Khalid, what does this bag say?”

“Best Salted Cashews.”

People are generally confused by Khalid. ¬†When we go into visually exciting new places, like schools, his attention is all over the place taking in the new surroundings, and the outsider’s first assumption is that the lights are on but no one’s home. ¬†He has to read every written word on every wall and visually digest every shape lovingly cut and unsteadily decorated in glitter glue. ¬† The various registrars and social workers who try to probe him ask him questions without first getting his attention, and as the seconds tick by in silence, I can see exasperation come over their faces as they assume I am exaggerating Khalid’s cognitive abilities just to get him into school.

“So Khalid, how are you?”




“Big, big giant school.”

(The social worker looks amused)

“Stairs going up.”

(The school has an impressive staircase leading from the reception to the second floor.)

“Do you have any friends?”

(I want to kick her for asking this)





(Now she looks confused.)

I earnestly explain that he’s telling her about his friends- that they’re boys.

“And girls.” Khalid adds after another second. ¬†“And kids.”

“Khalid,” I say nervously, “Can you tell me about your friend Omar?”

“He’s not here.”

“Omar transferred from the school,” I explain again. ¬†“None of the children in his current school speak English, so he hasn’t made any new friends yet.”

“Khalid,” the social worker continues, “What shape is this?”

Khalid looks down at the iPad that she’s pointing to. He’s been using it to play Cut the Rope, and also, to search for walk-throughs on YouTube when he’s stuck on a certain level.





“Very good!” the social worker says, genuinely surprised. “And this?”

Khalid looks to the coffee table.

“It’s a circle. ¬†Like the sun.” He uses his finger to squiggle, in the air, what he means to be the rays of the sun. The he goes back to his own world, reading the walls. ¬†Do not enter. ¬†Push. ¬†Pull. ¬†In case of fire. ¬†I remember- once we were driving back home from Ajman, and the sun was setting in an electric orange ball to the west of Emirates Road.

“Look Khalid, Iman- the sun is going down! SubhanAllah, it’s so big and round!”

Iman says: “Ooooh!” ¬†Khalid says: “Sun is a planet?”


Owlie and I took the kids to the children’s museum once, where watched a half an hour presentation on the solar system- once. ¬† This was before Musfira was born, and she’s almost four months old now.

“Actually, the sun is a star.”

“Not a planet?”

“No, because planets don’t give off light. The sun is a star, I think.”

Khalid disagrees.

“Not a star, planet.”

In Khalid’s big-city world view, stars are shapes with five points that exist primarily to be colored yellow. ¬†Dubai has way too much light pollution to see anything other than the moon and the air traffic. ¬†I can see his point of view. ¬†So I offer a compromise.

“Ok Khalid, maybe it’s a little bit like both.”

The social worker says she’ll get back to us.

We pack up and drive off to the next school. ¬†The principal, who I met last Thursday to appeal for Khalid’s admission, is out sick.

“I’ll leave a message please,” I say to the front-desk secretary. ¬†As I’m scribbling what I hope is a friendly, optimistic, and not too desperate-sounding request for a call back, Khalid is taking in the student-made exhibits on traffic safety week. ¬†I borrow the receptionist’s stapler and use it to make sure my business card makes it along with the message. ¬†Khalid’s last school admitted him on the strength of my position in exchange for training their KG department, and I’m willing to make whatever sort of bargains I have to and pull whatever strings I can reach to get him into a school. ¬†I’ve spent hours camped outside of school offices waiting to hound, guilt, impress, and emotionally blackmail whoever I need to in order to get Khalid a fair chance. ¬†I think I’m getting used to it now. ¬†I think I need to order more business cards.

“Khalid, it’s time to go now.”

“I need to fix.”

He’s trying to put the hat back onto the lego victim of a car crash who’s laying on lego street waiting for the lego ambulance to come to his aid.

“It’s alright, I think that’s how they meant the exhibit to look.”

“I like legos.”

Iman goes to school every day and Khalid gets left behind, asking me when we’re going to pick her back up. ¬†Iman’s teacher is delighted that she’s the youngest child in the class and the only one who can already write her own name. ¬†Khalid’s teacher, on the other hand, was openly angry about having to deal with “these kinds of children” when she already has twenty six other children in class she’s supposed to be teaching instead. ¬†The atmosphere on the first day of teacher training for that school was bordering on mutinous, and what was intended to be a workshop on using reinforcement within the framework of ABA quickly deteriorated into an angry argument between the pro-inclusion principal and Khalid’s anti-inclusion (and openly anti-Khalid) teacher. ¬†She walked out of the workshop, returned to argue with the principal in Arabic, and then walked out again.

To her credit, she did come on the second day and exhibited much less eye-rolling.  Today was the third day, and she looked almost civil.  Of course, she has no reason to be mad anymore, because Khalid is no longer attending her class.

He’s been home from school for three days now. ¬†He owns uniforms from two different schools, and when Iman came home in her PE uniform yesterday, Khalid walked silently to his bedroom and came back dressed in his. ¬†¬†He’s honest to a fault, and so sensitive to the world around him but so limited in expressing how much it affects him. ¬†I look at him, with his enormous beautiful eyes and his profoundly hidden profound intelligence, and my heart aches.

“You like legos my Jaan?”

“Yeah. I like it.”

He smiles at me.

“Then I think it’s time to buy you some.”