A is for ...
Parents don't choose their children and children don't choose their parents. We are born into this world destined to fulfill a mission, to acquire experience, to do good, to use our God-given abilities and be the best we can, to transfer our knowledge to the next generation, to enrich the world as we know it now by leaving imprints of personal discoveries, collective innovations and new information. We don't choose our destiny but rather destiny paves our path and we try to make the best choices along the way.
When I first met my husband, I never knew how much love and friendship could reinforce a marriage. I am 100% myself with him and so is he, with all our flaws. Being married to your best friend creates continuous never-ending discussions. The floor is always open to talk about anything anytime. When I got pregnant, we could not but feel that satisfying and overwhelming feeling of joy and anticipation. It was one of the most exciting moments of our life! Like any parent, you would start fantasizing about cliché parenting and playing situations with your bundle of joy.
If it was a girl, tea parties, dressing up dolls and combing her hair were on the menu.
If it was a boy, cars, sports and cheekiness were on the list.
Sure they might seem like stereotypes but we can't deny that, as first time parents, these traits cross our mind. At the end of the day, I believe a child can do whatever he chooses to do. Encourage your little boy or little girl to experiment, to experience and to make his/her own choices.
As I got into my second trimester, the moment of truth was getting closer.
It was by July 2010 that we realized that we were having a baby boy!
Baba was thrilled, and super prego Mama was on the moon.
A is for American University of Beirut Medical Center (Beirut, Lebanon)
On the 25th of November 2010 at 9:22 a.m., we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy with a sweet aura, curious dark grey eyes and a cry that made my heart crumble.
Hello little one. Welcome to the world.
As the effects of the C-section started to wear off, I walked into the nursery with my husband as the nurses wanted to give us a crash course on how to bathe our baby A. My focus wasn't on the instructions much but more on his little head, his soft fine hair, his tiny ears and his button nose. The nurse must have bathed so many babies in her time that her speed was jaw-dropping! I remember how my husband and I looked at each other with complete chock. We can do it.
We'll do it our way, and baby steps...
A is for Apple of my Eye
Ahmad. Ahmad. Ahmad. That's all what my mind could register.
My entire attention was on him and because I am a very sensitive and easily-anxious person, my focus was turned up a notch. The apple of my eye, my little ray of sunshine, a beautiful soul that brought so much joy to two families, longing for happiness. 24/7 multitasking mama mode switches on without warning. The first year is always the hardest because you are still getting acquainted with parenthood, mama-hood and baby-hood. Baby is crawling, baby is cruising and soon enough baby is walking (like a penguin). What will his first word be?
A is for Alphabet song
Nursery rhymes and the alphabet song are the first step into encouraging speech. I sing to him the ABC's and I call out his name "Ahmad". He doesn't look at me. He seems isolated in his little bubble of fun. We never took it seriously at first. He was just probably ignoring us and just busy enjoying his realm of colorful toys. We started noticing patterns and repetitions. There is no foolproof standard guide to a kid's development, only milestones that he seemed to be following quite well, except for speech and eye contact. He was already 2 going on 3 and no words coming out...
Speech delay? That's possible. Auditory deficiency? What would a parent do? What would you do?
Soon enough, we realized that Ahmad was a little different. What tormented us as parents was not knowing what was exactly going on. My husband and I are very open-minded individuals, with our own personal agendas that we promote passionately. My husband is a radio host and music activist and I am a plus size fashion blogger and a writer. Two worlds in which "acceptance" is a key word.
Ahmad was the completion of a "rebellious" trio. Accepting him as he is was never a challenge.
Concerned we were for sure, so we sought more information from his pediatrician, a speech therapist, an ENT Doctor, an audiologist and an ABA therapist. Also, his teachers at the daycare started explaining to us his odd behavior and lack of interaction with the rest of the group. They emphasized on his hypersensitivity to nursery songs, his lack of eye contact, his non-responsive behavior to any given instruction and his constant separation from the group. He was the runner, the "hyperactive" kid who wouldn't sit down and does as he pleases. At some point, the buildup of the comments did infuriate me. I would never push my child to conform, especially at this age. He is only in daycare. But, with all the things we were noticing at home, there was definitely something else.
I was never really familiar with the term. I might have come across a few articles about it but that was it. Autism. What is it exactly? Perplexed by the diagnosis given by one of his pediatricians, we felt cemented to the floor as we entered into unfamiliar territory. It is so scary to realize that your child is going through something you can't understand fully. Autism didn't scare us. It is the journey that was coming ahead that made us feel vulnerable and concerned. Autism is a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. It is a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people. My little ray of sunshine is a bright little boy, kindhearted and he just sees the world differently.
He was 3 and still not speaking. I took things into my own hands and started to get him to sit down and do some activities. Scribbling, coloring, sticker collages, drawing basic shapes and just having him be more attentive to my instructions. There was slow progress and interaction but something more drastic had to be done.
It was time for action. We went through two tumultuous years after we found out that Ahmad had autism. Back then, we were living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The forecast of sustaining a lifestyle for him there was like a haze. Ahmad needed an environment where he could test his potential and be given the opportunity to thrive. Our decision to move to Dubai was mostly due to finding an autism center there, with a staff that reassured us. For once, we were a little less stressed and more optimistic.
One of the main issues parents are faced with are doubt, hesitation and fear. All these feelings are normal, just don't take too long before taking action. The earlier the intervention, the better the results. Our move to Dubai was made public because when we took the decision to move, we were lacking financial support. My husband and I had decided to share - the once hidden - Ahmad's situation and we started up an online fund. Our explanatory video reached the hearts of generous friends and families, autism parents from the region, new parents and just people who saw inspiration in our action plan. It has helps us accomplish our goals and hopefully this will only be the start to a better tomorrow for our little man.
Within a month after our move, we started ABA therapy with the center.
Thanks to his love for anything that goes, all the cars, trains, airplanes and airports, his ABA sessions were running smoothly. The therapist composes a tailored program, based on the likes of the child. His toys were one of his sources of happiness. He has always had a particular preference for airplanes and all that is related to the functioning of an airport. He loves to travel, he loves to be on a plane and - I will never forget this - he once spelled PROPELLER on one of his spelling applications on his iPad and for a while I was surprised and eager to know where he picked it up from.
He is a curious little boy who googles anything that strikes his interest. He likes to visualize the words. He would scroll through images that relate to airports and learn words like pilot, suitcase, airport metro, train, bus, taxi, and the list goes on...
Be ambitious parents for him/her, believe in your child's potential regardless of his/her differences.
Let ambition, optimism and hope be the catalyst of your actions and decisions.
We are the only ones who can nourish, guide and encourage our children to be the best they can. With all the daily challenges we face, we don't give up. The future is scary for any parent, but with autism, the future looks vague and unclear. Ahmad's love for life is contagious. His smile brights up a room, his hyperactivity sets us on a game of "catch me if you can" and his perception of the world and his intelligence surprises me every single day. Surround your child with positivity and cherish the moments he replenishes with joy and good spirit. Autism rocks...
Parenthood is not a picture perfect phase of our life. It is filled with so many challenges, some of which you might not have ever thought about or even anticipated.
We always think "It can't happen to me" but it does. It is all about how you adapt, accept and manage the situation. We are not perfect, but we do our best.
Our trio is inseparable. We do things for fun together. We fight for him, give him the space and opportunity to venture into the world with all his quirkiness and wit and we are each others friends!
I cannot ask for a better family. Even though, challenges come into our life with a capital "C" but we are always up for it, always together, with our patience, our will and faith.
May Allah bless our trio and our rock star kiddo!