Heart of Gold

heart of gold

One child needed help understanding the terms of the scientific process when conducting an experiment. Then she needed help with calculations based on absolute numbers. Then another needed help with estimation problems in math. The six-year-old needed to be scolded to get back to coloring his patterns. Another child wanted me to explain what “setting” meant when writing a story. Still another needed to be quizzed for a reading comprehension test. And the eldest, who was prepping for his upcoming … [Read more...]

Embracing (and Including) Autism and Special Needs Families in Muslim Communities

crescent and star clouds

The day after speaking at the 50th annual Islamic Society of North American conference in Washington, D.C., I was back at home in my basement hanging with Lil D. He was roaming about, spinning his beads and calling “Maw-maw! Maw-maw! Maw-maw” – very much caught up in his stim and oblivious to the world. Every so often he stopped and would come close to me, put his face in mine and say nonsensical words like “Oweeowee owee. Maw-maw! Maw-maw!”As if to say – ok Mamma, you had an audience, you sa … [Read more...]

An Autism Report Card

report card

After years upon years of scrutinizing progress reports and hashing out (and assessing) IEPs (individualized education plan – what special education students have written for them in lieu of following a set school curriculum), I got Lil D’s year-end report card today with percentages listed for his final grades.These percentages translate to letter grades. My son has never received letter grades in his life, as his IEPs have addressed the most basic of academic skills with a heavy emphasis on … [Read more...]

When an Autism Awareness Event is Anything But

hockey autism awareness

We’ve hit the middle of April, and while there was a flurry of focus on autism at the start of the month, it still is very much “Autism Awareness Month.” Awareness events sponsored by local and national organizations continue to occur across the United States, but sometimes I wonder how much real “awareness” is actually happening? How many of these events just serve as fundraisers for the organizations sponsoring it?Fundraising is not bad, and of course autism organizations must capitalize o … [Read more...]

The Selfish Prayer and Fifth Grade Graduation

Daanish cake

We ate cake tonight, baked and decorated by our daughter for her big brother. We were celebrating Lil D’s fifth graduation with cake and biryani, and although he had eaten his meal half an hour before and had since retreated upstairs, it was still a celebration. I served the cake to the family on a familiar square yellow platter, decorated with red and blue large dots and covered with Arabic and English writingBismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim -- In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Co … [Read more...]

Giving Thanks for Good Autism Teachers

autism necklace

When I entered Lil D’s classroom to pick him up the other day, Sanjay* immediately turned around in his study carrel and called out to me: “Mrs. Ali, Mrs. Ali! If Lil D hits himself, will you be mad?”“No, Sanjay, I won’t be mad.”“Mrs. Ali, Mrs. Ali, if Lil D hits one of his friends, will you be mad?”“No Sanjay, I won’t be mad. But I’ll tell him that it’s not nice to hit.”“Mrs. Ali, Mrs. Ali, if Lil D hits one of the teachers, will you be mad?”“No, Sanjay, I won’t be mad. I’ll … [Read more...]

I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

Daanish trampoline

When the phone rang at 1:25 p.m. yesterday, I knew who it was before I picked it up: Lil D's teacher calling me to come get him because he was too worked up (or potentially on the verge of a meltdown, or coming off a meltdown) to ride the bus.I'm prepared for this. I've let go of so many "norms" for Lil D these past months that the new autism norm in our house (and isn't that an oxymoron?) is sadly quite minimalistic.We've let go of so many years-old programs and expectations and demands … [Read more...]


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