In these days of advanced technology and unceasing progression in the world of medicine, there is no cure for autism. But perhaps that is because no one has yet to discover the cure. Muslims learn that if there is a disease then there is a cure for it*. Parents with autistic children should not give up hope and seek behavioral/cognitive/medical intervention to the best of their ability as they never know where the cure lies.
However that is easier said than done because of the ridiculous expense of treatments and insurance companies not willing to foot the bills. Some parents are overwhelmed by these obstacles and give up. Not Abu and Umm Sinan! They are a Saudi-American couple whose son, Sinan, was diagnosed with autism. They asked me if I could help publish their story to appeal for financial assistance to jump start Sinan’s ABA therapy and I agreed to do so for the sake of Allah. May Allah cure Sinan quickly and completely ameen.
We appreciate all of the help. We have been hoping, Insha’Allah, that the issue goes kind of “viral” and gets taken up by news sources. That and we are hoping the laws are changed here FORCING the insurance companies to cover therapy for children with autism.
Having a child with special needs is hard on any family. I have included a link that talks about a study that says stress levels of mothers of a children with Autism match those of soldiers who have been in combat. I think this effects the entire family, mother and father, as well as other members of the family who are “typically developing”. Divorce rates are very high in families with special needs children so it is clear that stress levels tend to have a tremendous negative impact on the family. We try hard to work through things, sometimes we do better than other times, Alhamdulillah.
This is compounded by the fact that in many places it is hard or impossible to get the necessary medical and therapeutic care for your child. It is impossible to describe the feeling knowing that there is a treatment out there that can help your child, but that most insurance don’t cover it and it is far too expensive for all but the richest people to afford on their own.
Living in the KSA wouldn’t be an option for us because of Sinan’s condition. Programs for children with Autism in Saudi are few and far in between. Some of these we have seen are as expensive as they are here in the USA and often rely on outdated methodology and treatments. It goes deeper than that. Saudi society, and Middle Eastern societies in general, are not very welcoming to people with special needs. We lay this at the foot of ignorance and miseducation. My wife always relates a story about when she lived in Saudi. She remembers going to this nice villa and seeing an attractive young girl chained to a column in the living area. When she later enquired it turned out that the family thought she was “possessed by Jinn (spirits)”. When my wife was going to university to get her degree in psychology it became clear to her that the girl was probably just mildly retarded, or even had Autism. That isn’t a society that I’d want to raise my son in. We’ve known other families in Saudi who had children with special needs who actually picked up and left the country for these same reasons.**
As to things we’ve learned about having a child with Autism, they are many. One of them that sticks out is how nothing is perfect except Allah. When we look at our son physically, we say “Masha’Allah, he is tall, thin and attractive, yet he has this condition that will effect him for the rest of his life”. Our love for him is unconditional and although we have to work very hard with him and things are never easy, we say Alhamdulillah, because this is our trial from God and there are many out there who have it much harder than we do. So we do what we can and pray that it is enough.
Sinan is four and he has a little brother Sayf, who is three. Autism just doesn’t touch the person with the condition or their parents, it touches the entire family. I remember the first time Sayf said to me “Daddy, Sinan cannot hear us” and I had to explain, with tears in my eyes, that his brother heard us perfectly well but didn’t and couldn’t talk. Sayf has actually taken the role of the big brother and we encourage him to interact with Sinan, engage with him in games and play and to talk to his brother as much as possible. As children with Autism don’t automatically understand the value of peer play, communication and the like, we have to encourage it as much as possible. We are blessed that Sayf, as a little brother, has really helped in this fashion and constantly thinks of his big brother in everything he does. Sayf might be three, but in helping his older, he has taken the role of a much older brother.
If you would like to help Sinan, please click here.
JazakumAllahu khair (thank you!)
*It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah has not sent down any disease but He has also sent down a cure for it.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5678.
**Nzingha is an American married to a man from Saudi. Her son, Umar, has Down’s Syndrome and she knows first hand how it is to live with a special needs child in Saudi Arabia. She cautions against bringing any child with special needs to live in Saudi Arabia: “I would suggest that any family that is seeking proper care, opportunities and resources for any child with a disability to not come to Saudi or Bahrain for that matter. Saudi has nill when it comes to proper care and facilities. Most of the times good intentions will bring about a private school that start off well, but within two years, after teachers contracts run out than the facility goes down the tubes and often times is more harmful to a child with special needs. Unqualified staff who are short on knowledge, patience or even a caring attitude turn out angry frustrated children. Also the cultures over all attitude when it comes to children with autism is enraging. If a childs problems aren’t ignored completely there is blame of a ”curse’ put on the parents. There is a huge stigma for such children it is just a difficult thing for them to deal with.I would suggest if a couple is determined to come to this area, go to Qatar they have a very good school for autistic children and a more active approach when it comes to caring for the children.”
Umm Muhammad also has a son with Down’s Syndrome and lives in Saudi Arabia. She said that “Services are so limited for the English speaking special needs person [in Saudi Arabia]. It is a sad plight alhamdulillah. One day it will improve.”