I have a couple dreams I wish would happen. I wish for an accurate cause and cure for autism to be known. A lot of parents of autisitc children or any child with a disability would say they “wouldnt change their child even if a cure were discovered” Maybe I havent reached that state yet, weak faith, I dont know, I want a cure for autisim. If my son’s sweet, kind, forgiving nature is a symptom of autism then no I wouldnt want to cure that. But I would love to have not gone through that difficult behavorial phase, not to go through the devestation and stress of getting the diagnosis, I would love to be able to understand my son whenever he told me something, get rid of the frustration from both sides, cure his picky eating and limited diet habits, eliminate the odd humming and pacing. I would like a cure, so he would never be bullied for being different, a cure so that he can have friends and meaningful relationships, a cure to avoid stares or weird looks from others. This is all a dream, I cant go back in time and change anything and if a cure really were discovered or created I dont know whether I would line up for it or not, if it were to happen for real.
As there is no cure yet, this dream seems more attainable. Like I mentioned before, doctors and other parents will tell you once you get the diagnosis to seek a local support group, to talk with other parents that have been there, to find children similar to your child and set up play dates. I couldnt agree more with this. Most parents turn to their house of worship. I’ve read about several church based services, daycare options, playgroups for families with special needs. Here in Atlanta there is a large Jewish Autistic community also offereing the same services. Sadly there is no Muslim autisitic or special needs community for me to turn to. I’ve searched online countless times and find that Islam and autism dont go together for some reason. I’m seeking fatwas (religious decrees) about what my son’s religious responsiblities are, how much is he accountable for and what my role as a parent should be with teaching him his faith. I’m looking for other parents to learn from and see what they’ve done. They either dont want to communicate or are not on the world wide web. Its in the culture of many Arabs or Asians to see a disability as some kind of taboo, not seeking a diagnosis or hiding the child in shame, they lack awareness and its been said a lot that they think autism is a form of mental retardation, which it obviously is not.
I dream of organizing an awareness campaign with the local mosques, maybe hiring a speaker from Autism Speaks, printing out fliers or brochures, having recources translated into Arabic or Urdu, explaining to parents what the early warning signs are, urge them to have their children evaluated, that its nothing to be ashamed of, and maybe then I’ll find other families to form relationships with. I also wish that Arab doctors would get the training to recognize the signs to explore the area of developmental science that treating a child for physical illnesses is not enough, for Arabs to become therapists and special needs educators. Islam teaches us to be accepting of all races, ethnicitys, social backgrounds and of course mental capabilities, but sadly they show discrimination, they need to learn neuro-diversity. Its a term I learnt when I started joining the social networks of autism. It means that the same as we are accepting of different skin colors we should also be accepting of the different neuro development of others, of autism, Aspergers, Tourette, ADHD, these are all neuro-developmental disorders. Just like the color of their skin they were created this way and cant help it, its not the parents fault its nothing to be ashamed of. Since my son’s diagnosis, I’ve become more accpeting, when I see a child misbehaving in public I no longer think to myself “these parents have spoiled their child” I say to myself “this child may have some kind of disability and the parents are doing the best they can”.
I’ve met a mother from a Facebook group with a 4 year old son, with suspected Aspergers (she still hasnt received an official diagnosis) she was saying the same about not finding other Muslim parents outspoken with their children’s special needs, about the Islamic community’s lack of awareness. Her son’s application for a Pre-K program at an Islamic preschool was rejected, they said they do not deal with special needs, they said this without even understanding what his needs were. He has since been placed in a private pre-K school, in a regular class with a once weekly special needs teacher checking on him and he’s doing great masha Allah. This mother also dreams of starting an awareness group and maybe one day the both of us can make it work bringing awareness to the Islamic community and helping other parents seek the support they need.