There are some people who have special needs that are very apparent, like disabilities, or speech impediments or hearing problems. However some special needs are not so visible or easy to detect such as Autism or Global Delay.
My first experience with Special Needs was me observing my Auntie and her son who has Autism. When he visited I’d go out of my way to listen or play to an 8 year old who had the mental age of 4 years old. I’d remember her saying how distressing it was for her to go out shopping and have to take this big lad into the ladies toilets for her, for what i’m guessing you understand as obvious reasons. She’d say what do I have to do, buy him a tshirt that says I HAVE AUTISM on it! Women looked at her with disgrace.
As years passed I soon discovered my own struggles in the least of expected places, a mosque. I walked in with my son who is massive for his age masha Allah. A sister after an akward atmosphere asked how old my son was. I told her eight and she said, ‘aw he looks very big for his age, he should go next door’. I told her he had special needs which meant there was no need, she then said, ‘but by the age of 7 he should be next door’. I guess I just didn’t have the patience that day to sit down and explain to that he weren’t going to be looking at her in that way as he hadn’t hit puberty, but should I really have to.
As time has gone on I believe society have become a lot more understanding of special needs like ADHD and Autism. And non muslim groups have addressed the needs very well. But I feel that in my own experience, the Muslim community have been very slow to accomadating for an individual with special needs.
Parents who i’ve worked with have revealed how the community have failed to prepare for life opportunities for the special needs community in marriage, employment and education.
I can only ask if there is anyone out there so we can create a network that meets the needs of a community holistically. I will leave you with one of my favourite hadiths.
‘Truly YOU DO NOT BELIEVE until you love for your brother what you love for yourself’
The bit in capitals is there because it is not any statement, it is one that determines the state of your Faith. If we are in a supermarket and we are able to reach from the top shelf, should we not aid our brother to get the same in life by making it easier for him to reach???
I’d like to dedicate this blog to Sharleen West and Nadia Hussain! 2 amazing women who have never failed to neglect their famillies despite their struggles AND you never hear them complain about it. May Allah Aid our ummah to reconnect in the things that matter, Ameen.