In Our Society, Autism is Seen as Damaged

In Our Society, Autism is Seen as Damaged April 26, 2016
Mo, a Syrian refugee with autism - age 8
Mo, a Syrian refugee with autism – age 8

Ali Family Autism Truths #26 – April 26, 2016

Editor’s Note: For the last five days of April, I’m out of town and am getting creative with our Ali Family Autism Truths posts. Today’s and the next two day’s posts are actually brief interviews my friend Jamie Pacton did with Syrian autistic children and their families, who have been helped by A Global Voice for Autism. Jamie writes about autism for A Global Voice for Autism is a wonderful organization that helps autistic individuals and families in underserved communities, like Jenin (in Israel), Turkey and in Syria.

Our own family’s autism truths are enlightening, difficult, joyous and heartbreaking. But we are blessed with access to support, education, knowledge and advocacy. The same cannot be said for other autistic kids and individuals and their families. So, as we are nearing the end of Autism Awareness/Action/Acceptance Month, I think we all need to learn some Autism Truths from a global perspective.

This interview is about Mo, age 8, and was conducted with his brother Rajeh, who participated in a sibling program facilitated by A Global Voice for Autism. Please click here to support this organization and its campaign to help get 160 Syrian autistic refugee children go to school.

Jamie Pacton: Please describe your family. Also, please include when and how you knew your child was autistic…

Rajeh: The first time we suspected that my brother had autism was when he was 1.5 years old. We saw a television program about autism and the description sounded just like him. After some time, we started going to see doctors and eventually one of them told us that he has autism. Mo is the youngest child in his family and has two older brothers and an older sister.

JP: Tell me a bit more about your autistic child– age, what does he/she enjoy, what challenges does he or she face?

R: Mo is 8 years old now and his favorite things are electronics and swimming. He loves to play games on our phones and can figure out any new electronics in seconds. Mo is a picky eater and will only eat specific foods. His favorites are tomatoes and cucumbers.

JP: In your culture, how is autism viewed? How has this view affected your family and your child?

R: In our society a child with autism is seen as damaged. His condition is believed to be a reflection of the family and the family is judged. People look at children with autism strangely when they walk in the streets or go into the community. They ask why God would do this to a child and wonder what the family must have done to deserve the child’s situation [to end up with a child with autism]. The family can never feel like they fully fit in with the world around them.

JP: How has a Global Voice for Autism helped your child and your family?

R: A Global Voice for Autism clarified many things for us. They taught my parents that they are not to blame for my brother’s autism and helped them figure out how to talk to other people in their lives about autism and about my brother. They also helped us understand some of Mo’s behaviors that we could never figure out, like his crying and aggression and taught us how to deal with these behaviors so that we can understand Mo and avoid these challenging times.

JP: What’s one thing you wish the people around you knew about your autistic child?

R: The most special thing about my brother is that he is a genius. He has an incredible memory and is very good with electronic devices.


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