How’s this for an update?

I’m sitting here waiting for the next interview to begin and thought I’d actually post something.  Alhamdulillah, the trip is going well.  Yesterday we held a 2 1/2 hour orientation for therapists and some seniors from a local center.  After that we interviewed four of them, hopped into a taxi, and then went to the other side of town to meet with the Executive Director of the Autism Society of the Philippines (ASP).  He was such a lovely person to talk to,he was very helpful and gave us the inside-out of how ASP works, what the structure is, how they’re funded (or not!) what their projects are, etc.

Joy renewed her membership, and I signed AutismUAE up as a member as well and we’re very happy to support them in any way we can.  The ASP reminds me of us, really.  The Executive Director- Ranil- sits in a one-room office with a total staff of four- there are fifty national chapters, but he’s still the one driving around, making phone calls, running errands- the fancy titles don’t mean much and everyone does whatever is required regardless of the job description.

It felt a bit strange introducing myself to a board room (eep!) full of therapists yesterday as the Director (eep!) and I felt like I had to specify that I was also the driver, the clerk, the web designer, and the office boy- but after having met Ranil, I feel less self-conscious.  I feel less like I’m ‘pretending’ to be a director and more like making coffee and copies is actually part of the directorial job description.

Yes, I’m sure there are people in managerial positions out there who pay other people to wipe their noses for them, but I don’t see that as anything I aspire to.  And I feel better now that it doesn’t seem like that would be expected of me, either.  *phew*

The interviews that I mentioned in the first paragraph actually happened some time between the second and third paragraph, and now that they’re over, I can talk about them.  We have two potential therapists who both have their Bachelors degrees in Child Psychology, are in their final year of Masters in Special Education, and have four years of ABA experience with two very reputable centers.  We’re not hiring them yet though, we’re giving them three months to develop… the powers of speech. :p  They’re too shy, too quiet, too polite, not loud enough, not verbal enough, and not confident enough to swim with the sharks in Dubai, the sharks being the demanding, inquiring, and highly verbal parents that they’ll be working with.

Unlike center-based therapy, where contact between therapist and parent is very limited, home-based therapy involves complete immersion of the therapist into the child’s home environment.  There is no middle-man to mediate, and since therapists and parents together form the team that is responsible for the materials, the learning environment, and the consistency of the behavior modification plan from each family member, the therapist needs to go in wearing their own pair of bossy boots.

Yes.  Bossy boots.  Big, steel-toed, bossy boots.  You grow them after developing the confidence that you know what you’re talking about and it’s more important that the child be taught correctly than to be mis-taught because you’re afraid of offending a ‘senior’ therapist or parent.

These two therapists were not wearing bossy boots.  They were wearing what we call the too-nice loafers of Pinoy Politeness, where the cultural norm is that it’s more important to be polite than honest, and rather than say ‘no’ to anything (because it could potentially offend someone) it’s better to say yes and then disappear.  I’ve been in this situation twice or thrice already, and twice (TWO TIMES!) this has involved people accepting jobs and then being nowhere to be found when it comes time to sign the contract.  They don’t answer email, they don’t answer phones- they just disappear.  And weeks later we find out from other therapists that, in one case, the therapist’s significant other didn’t want her working abroad, and in the other case, the therapist changed her own mind about working abroad but at no point whatsoever decided to inform me.

We’ve even had one candidate cut and run- literally- from the car of a family we set up an interview with, and disappear.  After making a few phone calls, we discovered that her aunt had worked for the same family before, and reported that the mother could be verbally abusive.  Why she couldn’t have told us this before we set up the interview, before she got on the bus, before she traveled for two hours and then gotten into the mother’s car only to jump out again a few minutes later- I don’t know.

I digress.  Alhamdulillah, we have finalized and approved of our next three therapists, all of whom are wearing BIG OLE BOSSY BOOTS because they’re all senior-level therapists with years of experience managing other therapists in addition to their children, and they have the presence to prove it.  Among them, even the quietest senior- who has been an ABA therapist for seven years- makes up in content what she lacks in volume.  She reminds me of a neighbor that Erma Bombeck once wrote about in one of her many gems as a humor columnist.  Erma described herself as a mother who screamed and yelled her kids into obedience (or some semblance thereof) and bitterly resented the demure Southern Belle who lived next door and never raised her voice above a whisper.  Imagine her surprise one day when her kids came back home and reported that they had been gently told, in the most feminine whisper, that if they played ball on that lawn again they’d have their gizzards ripped out.  0_0

So yes, volume.  You don’t always need it.  🙂

Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, by the time we’re done processing papers (which could take two months) our team will be comprised of:

  • Joy: My lead therapist and Khalid’s ABA therapist who commands such authority that if she weren’t handling kids she’d be bossing around a naval fleet somewhere.  She’s been with us for a year and a half now.
  • Jel: A superstar Physical Therapist turned ABA therapist who earns rave reviews from the parents as well as the visiting case managers and psychologists. She’s been with us since the beginning of this year.
  • Grace: An English teacher turned ABA therapist who is four and a half feet tall but manages older, more severe children two feet taller and double her weight.  She’s been with us for two weeks and is already garnering good feedback from parents.
  • Cheng: She’s the senior therapist with seven years of experience, a degree in Child Psychology and the authoritative whisper. We hope to have her in Dubai within the next two weeks, max.
  • Adrian: A broad, tall Physical Therapist and senior ABA therapist who handles the 16 year olds and physically demanding children.  He is scheduled to be down by mid-May of this year at the latest, InshaAllah.  He will be joined by:
  • Sherry: His wife, who is also a senior therapist, possibly even smaller than Grace but with no less command in her personality.
  • Jan-Jan: A senior therapist, Physical Therapy graduate with a Masters degree in Special Education who has also been giving speech therapy to deaf children for the last three years.
  • GNet: Another triple-header- A Physical Therapist, Special Ed Masters, and senior ABA therapist- GNet also taught high school for four years, so she’s got the kind of bossy-boots that you come to expect from someone who has taught teenagers.

After that, we have our two too-nice Pinoy Polite aba therapists with Child Psych degrees.  They’ve been given three months to take up public speaking, debate, or just arguing with people around them :p and then they’ll come back for a reevaluation.  Not for their ABA skills, but for their confidence and ability to communicate effectively.

And now that we’ve wrapped up three intense days of work, Joy and I are heading to Qiapo- the Muslim part of town to visit the only Mosque in Manila and maybe find a halal lunch, InshaAllah.



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

  1. Owl

    😀 You may just revolutionize the Pinoy expat worker culture with your lecture on the importance of being bossy. Of course, it’s not just the Filipinos – lots of people have a hard time communicating and being firm and confident. It’s important stuff though. After you’ve got this business up, you should start another one called Getting Your Bossy Boots On. 😀 Cuz you got ’em. 😛

  2. sister

    wow mashallah it seems everything’s progressed really fast for AutismUAE. All the best with it. I wish you and all the therapists and all the children success. Very inspiring work! Btw, does Owl still have a blog? After over 6 yrs of following her blog, i was devastated to find I cant access it anymore 🙁

  3. Abez

    Owl, any reply for Sister?

    Mona- JazakAllahuKheiran. 🙂

    Owl: You know, that’s actually my long-term goal? I need to create some sort of standardized assertiveness training for therapists instead of just hoping they figure it out. I know what I need first….a musical montage! That way, once it has passed, provided there has been enough intense, emotive struggle, when the music finishes they’ll all be super-assertive, gold-medal winning kung-fu, boxing ABA legends! 😀

  4. Owl

    Hi Sister. You can leave me your email and I’ll invite you to it. The blog, or what remains of it, is by invitation only.

  5. sameera

    Oh, hey, may I too have an invite to your blog? I’ve been reading both Abez and yours blogs for sometime. Just before you made it invite only I went abroad and wasn’t able to leave a message on your blog.

    If it’s ok, then my email add is

    All the best with you venture Abez, you’re very brave to be tackling such a huge, beneficial and much needed project, *plus* you’re preggers. Not many people could really put themselves out there juggling different things.

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