Our journey through autism

Archive for August, 2013

The Story of Ota (part 1)

Ota is the Arabic (Egyptian) word for cat. It was the first word said by both my boys at around 12 months. Cats have been a large part of my life especially during my teens and early twenties. There was always a cat in the house during those years. At 13 my friend’s blue Persian got out the house and got pregnant by a stray tabby. She had 3 kittens and I took the runt of the litter she was a medium haired white and grey tabby. She was like my baby, I dotted on her, talked with her and she was really my everything then. We had her for 6 years and during those years whenever there was talk about giving her away due to my parents fear of Toxoplasmosis or being unable to find someone to care for her over the summer while we traveled until the last minute, I would go through the extremes of teenage drama, bawling and crying and being utterly depressed not wanting to lose her,  we always kept her.  Along with Tooti we always fed the strays in the area and several times they would come give birth in our balcony finding it safer and with a supply of food, so we had a lot of cute little kittens running around as well. In college I adopted two small kittens and took care of them as well. So oddly enough during my first trimester with Bilal I had constant dreams about kittens. I woke up feeling that I was pregnant with a kitten instead of the baby from all the dreams. The only thing I’ve ever babied or taken care of was cats, so either my subconscious was saying I would make a horrible mother and treat the baby like a kitten or that I would be a good mother because I already know how to take care of something small and dependent. Go figure.

During the pregnancy hubby and I decided to check out Toys R Us and see what products and toys were available what I would need and the cost of everything. I found a soft stuffed white and grey toy cat and said I’ll get this for baby, it looks like Tooti and baby should grow up loving cats too. So that’s the beginning of Ota’s story, she was bought even before Bilal was born and placed into the crib we bought for when baby came. When Bilal was born Ota was placed on the other side of the crib, it was always close by. I think about 12 months he fell in love with it and it became his toy, always making sure it was there when he slept and nearby during the day when he played.

Heart to Heart

Heart to Heart

In this photo Bilal was about 4 months old babbling with Ota in his crib.

Bed Time

Bed Time

This picture Bilal was about 11 or 12 months old and sleeping with his two favorite toys.

I only had one rule regarding Ota, he wasnt allowed to go out with it. I’ve seen parents battle with their kids over their toys when they went out and then when it was lost or forgotten the crying and tantrums that followed and trying to distract the child or having to find and buy a replacement. I just didnt want that, so when we went out we would say “Bye” to Ota and leave her by the front door and there she would be the first thing he saw when we got back home. Ota only left the house if we were going to spend the night away from home.

Traveling with Ota

Traveling with Ota

On a car trip from Cairo to Alexandra, Ota came along.

Because of Ota he fell in love with real cats. The streets of Egypt are full of stray cats and he always saw them, pointed them out shouted “Ota!” and if possible ran after them.


Stray Kitten

Stray Kitten

Ota was always around and close by, played with all the time in dusty Egypt and with Bilal’s reflux and frequent vomiting Ota was usually a victim of yuckies and needed to be washed a lot. A damp soapy towel wouldn’t do of course when vomited on so she was put in the washer and dryer or placed in the sun. She soon lost her softness and fluffiness. Next part more pictures of Bilal and Ota and the continuation of their relationship till today.



Today marks the end of the first two weeks of Kindergarten. His teacher says he’s doing well and trying really hard and he seems to really enjoy it. His teacher has years of experience teaching grades 1-3 this is her first time teaching Kindergarten but I liked what she said during curriculum night. She knows what is required for a successful first grader so she will make sure when the year ends they are ready for that. She told me she has special education training so it seems a great fit for Bilal to be in her class. She has created a website that she updates regularly and she is always sending out emails with news and requests. In the middle of the first week Bilal suffered a stomach upset, says he wants to throw up we said it could be motion sickness from eye exhaustion or the beginning of a cold. She said she’ll let him rest a bit and if he’s not any better we should pick him up, he was soon fine and spent the rest of the day at school. That evening she called and checked on how he was and updated me on his progress, she said he was doing really well and trying really hard, that he has trouble staying seated but that she doesn’t mind herself. She said writing is the most difficult for him but that OT and his special instruction should help with that. I really fell in love with her then, and really looking forward to the rest of the year working with her with helping Bilal. I’m trying out some volunteer positions in his class keep me better updated with his progress and what he’s learning. I volunteered to be a mystery reader, show up without the class knowing who it is and read them a story, wasn’t really interested at first but when I saw another mother with a heavy accent volunteer I thought why not. I volunteered for the Scarecrow Festival but we’ve yet to do anything.

Bilal at first only talked about the difference between pre-k and kindergarten about the bigger class, about recess, PE, the cafeteria, the school bus. He particularly enjoys waiting at the bus stop and getting on with the other kids and walking the bit from the stop till the house. He made friends with a first grader on his bus who is most probably only a couple months older than Bilal. He’s mentioned a few games he’s played during PE or recess. So far it looks like attending a typical class is the best fit for him inshaAllah. We should have an IEP meeting soon to update goals and include his vision problems, looking forward to a great year.

Summer 2013

I’ve been meaning to write for the longest time, but busy with one thing or another, so now I have to back track… school started last week and I wanna write up about that as well, but first let me sum up our summer and then write up about school and therapy and anything else.

Summer was kinda busy, at the beginning of the summer he had his piano recital, horse show, and 2 summer camps. I’ve already written about all those except his second camp, the YMCA summer day camp.

We did 1 month of Y camp and 2 weeks of swimming, and he had a lot of fun, he doesn’t say much about his day but he was happy to go every morning and was happy when I picked him up, it was from 8:45 to 4 every week day and it helped him sleep easily at night. He started the day with swim lessons which I think have helped him be more confident in the water and a better swimmer. There was arts and crafts, sports, nature and because of a lot of bad rainy days there were also indoor activities and movies. Hoping to do it again next year but maybe add an extra session or 2 to fill up his summer, he gets bored and restless during the long days. One day in the car after camp he asked me if he could be a camp counselor when he grew up so I take it that he had fun even if he didn’t tell me about his days and why he was having fun. He got really tan and also got several bug bites that he scratched at incessantly, the was the downside, and I couldn’t spray him something before he went in the morning because he started the day with swimming and it would have been washed off.

After 4 weeks of camp we did 2 weeks of swimming. It was 4 times a week every morning so he got the most benefit, also the instructor he had was better than the previous one. He was the oldest and most advanced in his class, I could see the improvement in his confidence and swimming abilities, he kept his head under water longer, and was able to swim a little on his front and on float on his back. At the end of the 2 week session the instructor filled out the report in detail and not just quickly marking off the form. She suggested he repeat Pike 2 because he was unable to swim the required distance but other than that he was ready for the next class. Not sure yet when we should restart classes or move on to something else.

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