April is Autism Awareness Month!

Because it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t slather my blog in as much autism as my daily life is slathered in, this month, I intend to post as much as possible about autism.  Whether you want me to or not. :p  So here I go. 🙂

First of all, there’s this picture gallery of individuals with autism from around the world. Many thanks to  Hemlock who mailed me the link today.  I like to think that I’m seasoned enough to keep it together when talking/looking/dealing/interacting with autism, since not only do I do that at home with my own son, but also with the children and families that our therapists take care of, but I cried anyway.  Maybe it’s because I’m pregnant and slightly more emotional than usual, or maybe it’s because I feel for each of the families in the pictures.  I’m not sure, it’s a combination of both, most likely.  But I know I’m not the only one who gets hit by this unexpectedly sometimes.  A certain nice man who just happens to live with me (though I won’t say who) was once reduced to silent, manly tears by this Arabic nasheed about autism.   Me?  I bawled.  And I don’t even think I was pregnant when I saw the video so that kind of shoots down the hormones excuse.

Second of all, Khalid turned five this March, Alhamdulillah. 🙂  And Iman turned three.  Alhamdulillah.  My amazingly beautiful, vicious, unexpected little savages- who are studying Arabic in anticipation for their entrance exam to a bilingual KG program- are busy running, jumping, arguing, and whacking each other out of babyhood and into young childhood.  We’re praying that InshaAllah, come KG-2 in September, Khalid won’t need a shadow in school.  At the moment, Joy goes to school with him every day to help him, basically, learn how to learn.  He will always need some extra support, but if he can function independently in a school setting, then that’s a huge step towards independence in the real world.  Please make dua that Khalid can take that step, because the sooner he can pass for ‘normal,’ the sooner teachers stop handling him with kid gloves- an educational tactic which is the frustrating equivalent of ‘give the kid what he wants, don’t make the retard cry.’

I know they mean well, but when Khalid is asked to do something by the teacher that he doesn’t want to do and Joy is working hard to teach Khalid to listen for the teacher’s instructions and follow through, it’s utterly useless for the teacher to backtrack as soon as she sees expectations being placed on Khalid and say “Oh no, it’s ok! He can lay in the middle of the floor while everyone else sits nicely on the mat!” or “Look class, Khalid is helping us choose a song!” as Khalid is gleefully pushing buttons on the CD player in the middle of the lesson.

The teacher is, in essence, undermining her own authority as well as Joy’s, and un-teaching the compliance skills that we’ve spent over two years building.  Khalid’s motto is, and has been since birth, “You And What Army?”  When other kids in the center got over their initial resistance to therapy within the first few sessions, Khalid insisted on crying himself silly for over three weeks.  I would peek through the window in the therapy room to see him blowing bubbles- and sobbing.  Putting coins in the piggy bank- and sobbing.  Cutting toy fruit with a novelty-sized plastic kitchen knife- and yes, sobbing.  He is still remarkably stubborn, strong-willed, and very determined in very nearly everything he does.  He does not suggest, he insists.  His train does not say choo-choo, it says beep beep, and if you suggest otherwise, he will get angry.  RTA is not an acronym for Roads and Transport Authority, it is a word in itself and it is pronounced ‘ri-taa’ every time an RTA taxi, bus, or metro train pass by.

I digress.  Compliance has been one of our toughest battles, and I get really, really annoyed when I pick Joy and Khalid up from school and Joy is sighing from exasperation because the teacher let Khalid lay at her feet as she stroked his hair while the other children sat nicely on the circle and listened to the story.  (Teacher’s pet, literally?)  Joy has taken to simply removing Khalid from these situations by walking him out of the classroom, much to the teacher’s confusion, as Joy basically has to step in and interrupt the lesson in order to reinforce such simple requests as ‘we sit in a circle during circle time’ which the teacher neglects because she ‘doesn’t want to make Khalid upset.’

SubhanAllah.  Right.  I think I’m supposed to be talking about autism.  I am, really, but in a way specific to how people perceive a child with autism.  I realize that people are trying to be sensitive, but my maternal hackles are raised (and teeth bared, too) every time people treat Khalid as something pitiable.  Yes, fifty years ago they would have written him off as ‘retarded,’ because they didn’t realize what they are only slowly realizing now- that there is intelligence locked inside of body that fails the mind.  Many non-verbal individuals still have 100% comprehension of what is being said around them, or have remarkable analytical, spatial, mathematical, or artistic abilities that go un-noticed for decades because they cannot be accessed, but not because they don’t exist.

So there.


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.

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