Autism coffee morning – let’s talk about camel milk!

Have you ever tried camel milk? I have. I admittedly don’t have a lot of it, but we did have quite a few bottles of it in my house on a regular basis for a while – when research emerged that camel’s milk is an alternative to regular milk or soy milk etc for people with autism.

It’s Autism Awareness Month in April, and to herald that, there’s something pretty interesting happening in a dew days. If I wasn’t travelling, I’d definitely be there! So here’s something for families or professionals who deal with autistic spectrum disorders on a regular basis:

What?
EICMP (Emirates Industry for Camel Milk & Products) is hosting a coffee morning in co-ordination with Autism UAE and the Child Early Intervention Medical Centre to talk about the issue that camel milk might support in the therapy of autistic children.

US author (A Real Boy: A True Story of Autism) Christina Adams will speak at the coffee morning about her experience with her autistic son and the use of alternative therapy methods.

FYI she will also be speaking at the Child Early Intervention Medical Centre charity gala dinner on April 2, 2014.

When?
Monday, March 31, 2014 at 10am.

Where?
The Majlis Dubai, next to Jumeirah Mosque on Jumeirah Beach Road.

Advertisements

Special needs event on Saturday, Feb 22, in Dubai!

Running a press release which I received about an event in Dubai this coming weekend, which aims to raise awareness about special needs kids and allows them to enjoy themselves in a relaxed setting while interacting with kids who go to mainstream schools.

Also, it’s Karan’s birthday on February 22 … so go celebrate! 😀

PRESS RELEASE:

TRIBE WATSON to Organize 7th Annual reaching you “party in the park”
(formally known as reaching you “family fun day”)

Dubai, UAE – 16th February 2014 – Under the patronage of HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice- President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, ‘reaching you’- a programme created to increase awareness and integration of children with special needs across the UAE- will be holding its 7th annual Party In The Park (formally known as ‘Family Fun Day’), at the Mega Bowl, Zabeel Park on the 22nd of February 2014 from 12:00 until 18:00.

Invitation to Reaching You party in the park

A complimentary day full of festivities, the reaching you “party in the park” is committed to providing a relaxed environment for special needs and mainstream children to interact and enjoy a fun filled day of activities, merriment and health.

“We see health and fitness as a key element in enhancing children’s lives and integrating them into their community,” said Nick Watson, Co-Founder of TRIBE WATSON and reaching you. “As such, we wanted to create a worthy cause, which encouraged this involvement, sharing with parents and the UAE community the wonderful joy this can bring to children of all abilities.”

“In Dubai alone there are over 6000 children with special needs, however caring for them is not always at the forefront of people’s minds, thus events like the reaching you “party in the park”, help in bringing us all together,” said Mr. Watson.

In its 7th year and expecting over 5000 visitors, the reaching you “party in the park” promises to be a fantastic day full of activities including – DJ’s, bouncy castles, obstacle courses, climbing walls, Dubai Drums, art work, puppet shows, theatrical shows, games as well as face & henna painting – delighting children in this renowned family affair.

“It is my personal belief that every individual has the right to receive the necessary support needed to live as a member of the community and benefit from experience and social relationships. reaching you and its various initiatives are a perfect way to achieve this,” concluded Mr. Watson.

Nick and Delphine Watson are parents of Rio, their beautiful boy who has special needs. Inspired by their own experiences, in 2006 they were motivated to establish the program reaching you, using their own understanding and appreciation for the cause, as the currency for their success.

Details of Reaching You Facebook page-
https://www.facebook.com/reachingyoudubai

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with the letter “a”

I guess people who deal with special needs of any form can identify with this.

Often, it feels like having a superpower – the power to spot special needs where others don’t. I know it sounds overbearing, awful and sad.

Some people don’t have external, identifying “marks” of having a special need. But I can see them (it’s starting to sound all Sixth Sense even as I type).

I was out yesterday in a mall, and I was walking towards my destination in the mall, my eye moved towards a boy (perhaps 17? 18?) with a bright pink t-shirt with a slightly unfocused look. And in around 10 seconds, I thought, “he has autism.”

Then I observed a little more.

He was accompanied by a man and woman whom he resembled slightly – his parents I surmised. With them was another man, didn’t look like them at all, had (how do I write this in the most PC manner? Perhaps there is no way) slightly worn/not very expensive clothes on…I pegged him as their helper. He had a shopping bag in his hand, and I think the father asked him to give it to the boy. He did. The boy held it limply for a while, then dropped it, not realising, not caring. The other man picked it up, stayed close.

I stayed for a minute or two, and figured I was right.

And then I mentally wished them all the best, and felt glad that at least they had some help with the boy. It’s not easy, and frankly not recommended, to take care of a person with special needs with no extra help – especially if it’s within your means to get that help.

Lunching with my brother

I’ve been trying to get Karan to go out for lunch every weekend, at least once, so that he gets out of the house instead of staying cooped in. So far we’ve experimented as a family (all four of us), as a trio (Karan, my Mom and I) and today, it was a duo date – just Karan and I.

I took Karan to Aappa Kadai in the Dubai Marina a while back, and he fell in love with their kababs and mango lassi.

So today, when it was just the two of us, I decided to go back there. I quite forgot about the time, and ended up there around 2.40pm rather than much earlier.

It was packed.

I decided to order the food as take-away, but the staff members there (who recognised Karan and I from our many outings there) said one of the tables was clearing soon. So I gave my order and waited. They were really cool about it…gave Karan a chair to sit on so he wouldn’t get agitated.

I did get the usual stares from the pre-dominantly desi crowd. But there was one woman there, with her husband and two kids. She looked at Karan for a bit, but it was different from the usual weird stares I get. She then looked up at me and smiled.

I felt much better instantly – till that point I was fretting a bit about whether Karan would wait for the tables to clear, whether he would get upset because he was angry. She, however, with a smile that said to me: “Hey, hope you’re okay!” , made me feel just a little less worried.

A table did clear up within 10 minutes or so, and Karan gobbled up loads of kababs and his customary mango lassi. He was really cute… he was quite hungry and every time a waiter walked past with a tray of food, he would straighten up and look at the tray hoping it was for him.

Honestly, the staff at Aappa Kadai are absolutely lovely when it came to dealing with us. We’ve never told them Karan has autism or anything, but they’ve always treated us well. And that is why I love going back. Apart from their crazy good food of course!

Autism and restaurants – my first experience with discrimination

I can’t remember how old I was. I think I was 13 or 14. So it wasn’t very long after Karan received his autism diagnosis.

The semblance of “normal life” was slowly slipping away from our family. We’d stopped doing random things we used to do together. Gone were trips to the cinema, gone were long drives, and something that completely shattered our going out to restaurants happened.

One night, we’d decided to go out for a meal. We went to an Indian, vegetarian restaurant in Dubai, that we used to frequent a lot many years ago. Karan was still 4 or 5 at this time.

We sat down to eat, placed our order. Karan started whining a little bit; we realized eventually it was the noise in the restaurant bothering him. He kept crying for a bit, as we tried to calm him down. It didn’t work immediately; his diagnosis was new enough that we were still at a learning curve, still working out how to handle him.

After a lot of stares, mutterings and pointed glares, the restaurant manager came over to our table.

We pretty much got kicked out of the restaurant.

Apparently the other diners complained about my brother and the nuisance he was causing, and the manager said it was better we left. When we tried to protest and explain the situation (“this child has special needs” etc), we heard a rather loud: “Why don’t they keep their retarded children at home?” comment.

We left.

I think it scarred us for life. We tried going to another restaurant weeks later, but as soon as Karan kicked up a fuss, we upped and left. Perhaps my parents didn’t want a repeat getting-thrown-out scenario. We’ve never really gone to a restaurant since. Food courts yes (let’s face it, even if Karan screams like a banshee, no one’s going to hear him there), restaurants no.

I accept it wasn’t completely the manager’s fault; I imagine the diners were having a go at him and upset about their meal being “spoiled” by the crying child. But there was clearly no policy on dealing with situations like this. Yes, it was a nascent time then for special needs, but oh lord, how it hurt. How it hurt.

I don’t blame my parents for leaving. But I now realize that had I been older and in a position to make the decision, I would not have left. My mother and I have realized (in hindsight), that there’s no point in tucking our tails between our legs and running. It’s important to stand and fight.

You might say, surely we have a responsibility to not bother other people.

Well, I’m SORRY if my brother’s autism bothers you, but frankly, I’m just going to tell you to get stuffed. Who the hell are you to tell me that you’re entitled to enjoy a meal with your family at a nice place, and I am not? My brother is not?

Now you’ll say, well he was crying anyway so he clearly wasn’t enjoying it. No, he wasn’t. I agree. My point is, with autism, he needs to be exposed to “normal” things that everyone else is. I want him to go out, I want him to experience what everyone else does. By shutting ourselves at home, we’re just segregating ourselves more than YOU are already doing with your behaviour towards us.

So yes, I will take Karan to restaurants and places where he may cry or kick up a fuss. I will stay as long as I can with him to acclimatise him to the surroundings because it is important to him, and to us. For example, I took him to Chili’s on his birthday a few years ago; we got him molten chocolate cake to celebrate (he loved the cake there FYI). He did make a little noise (happy noises to be fair!) and kept trying to bang the cutlery on the table, but if anyone looked at us oddly, I glared back. It’s my thing.

I dare you to tell me to leave. I’m older, bigger and frankly, have had it with your shit.

Oh and that restaurant that told us they’d rather we left before they evicted us? We never frequented it again.

Cross-posted on FooDee

Getting an Emirates ID card for someone with special needs

Guest post by Adita Divecha, Karan’s mother

Last year, we (Karan, Devina and myself) went to get our Emirates ID cards done, but later on found out that since Karan was only 14 then, he did not require a card to be made.

So it was his turn this year, since he’d turned 15, to get the Emirates ID card. This time, Karan, his father (Rajiv) and myself went to the Emirates ID centre in Barsha.

When we went in, he was quiet, but started getting fidgety and making a few noises when he saw the crowd standing in a long line (most kids with autism don’t like crowded places). As I did last year, I spoke to the lady up front and asked if they could help us somehow because there was no way he would stand for too long without getting upset.

She sent us straight in to the supervisor, where they took all the details from Rajiv, while I sat with Karan. They were really nice about having to see us quickly, which was very helpful.

We had to get his photo taken there, so he sat in the chair, but when we asked him to look up, he ended up looking at the ceiling and closing his eyes. After multiple tries, he stared at the camera, but with one eye closed. After a few more tries, he looked straight with both his eyes open and they clicked immediately. But they ended up using the photograph we’d provided; I don’t think he looked at the camera as straight as he should have.

Next: fingerprinting. The person taking the fingerprints was there the last time we came and even though a year has passed, he remembered us! He asked if we’d come before to make sure.

First he held Karan’s right hand, while I spoke to him to keep him calm, and started rolling a finger from one side to the other (they have to take the prints of the finger in a sort of 360-degree way). Karan allowed him to do that for just three fingers before he decided he didn’t want to do this anymore. He refused to let anyone touch his hands.

Then, Rajiv, the fingerprinting man and the supervisor had to hold him, but Karan is quite strong and kept pushing. He did this without crying or showing he was angry. It’s funny, in retrospect, to see a 15-year-old boy nearly pushing three grown men away.

I was standing behind him, patting his back and reassuring him that everything was okay. Eventually, we finished all the fingers on the right hand, and had to move on to the palm. He did put his palm on the printing device but didn’t want to press it hard, so we had to apply the pressure for him.

It was with a lot of difficulty that we finished, but it was done! But then we still had the left hand to do as well.

Nothing doing, indicated Karan.

He stood up once he realized we had to move on to the other hand, pushed everyone away and refused to go near the chair again. Nothing would convince him to go back. Finally, they said it was okay. They said because he had autism and that was causing him to be uncomfortable with the procedure, they’d put in a special note for his application saying that because he wasn’t happy going through the necessary process, they’ve just taken one hand’s prints and that would suffice.

Even though Karan didn’t really cry through the entire time we were there, I could see the relief on his face when he figured out we were done.

As usual, we had people (those waiting in the centre for their applications) staring at Karan like he was some kind of pariah, I guess because he was rocking a bit now-and-then and making loud noises. Doesn’t matter so much but you’d think there would be more educated people in society nowadays. Pity.

But the staff at the centre were really helpful. Extremely understanding about it, and we had a very good experience with getting the card sorted with the least possible fuss. I can’t be thankful enough about that.

Artism

If you’re reading this blog, you’ll know my now 15-year-old brother has autism. He is a smart, funny and cute boy, who just happens to not be able to do things other “normal” 15-year-old’s can do. He is currently non-verbal in that he cannot talk to communicate his needs. There are many things he will not be able to do that everyone else takes for granted throughout their lives.

However, we are now launching something for him and by him. What is it?

Karan’s school has this program to get its students to become self-sufficient in something they could potentially make their livelihood. While some students are capable of doing admin work, like filing, photocopying and entering data into forms and things like that which could get them jobs in offices/hotels/banks, Karan isn’t up to that level. His work will mostly be of the artisan kind, and right now he’s doing very well in two things: painting and jewellery-making.

Right now, we’ve started off with making jewellery. I’ve had the very experienced Debbie (@GeordieArmani) have a look at initial pieces and she’s been very helpful with suggestions on how to improve and moving forward.

I’ll be putting up some pics of stuff he’s done, and will create a Facebook page soon to get more people interested in the know, and will hopefully be present at future ARTE (Artisans of the Emirates) events.

Today, I present to you: Artism.

Logo_b1_-_copy