“I am from Islamabad, Pakistan and my family has lived in Bahrain since 2008. Inspired by a similar group that exists in the UAE, in 2012 I started a group called Special Families Support (SFS) for families of children with special needs in Bahrain. Having a child with a disability myself, I have received so much support over the years that I decided I wanted to give back to the community.

My younger child is upper limb deficient in both arms, which means that he has no hands. Until his birth, I had never met or interacted with someone with a disability like his. My baby’s disability was completely unexpected, it was not detected in ultrasounds and there was no genetic predisposition. After his birth, it took me some time to make sense of things and at first, I couldn’t see beyond his disability. I was upset and scared about what the future would hold for my child – but I knew I couldn’t stay upset. Apart from the absence of limbs, my baby was healthy in all other ways. My eldest son (then seven) gave me the wisest advice. He said that I should look at what the baby has rather than what he doesn’t have. So that’s what I started focusing on.

At first I didn’t know where to begin with finding the right help and support. My brother suggested I start looking at online support groups and I came across Reach (UK). Through Reach I got in contact with a gentleman from the UK called Frank Letch, who like my son is upper limb deficient in both arms. Not knowing what to expect, I wrote to Frank and that turned out to be the best thing I could have done as he became my guide. When the baby wasn’t crawling, Frank would say, “Throw toys at him, he will grab them” and so I did…and it worked. Frank has lived a full life; he’s a teacher, he speaks five languages, is married with children and has been the Mayor of his county. Looking at all of Frank’s accomplishments has inspired us. Frank has become a friend of our family’s and a couple of years ago he visited us in Bahrain and did a presentation at my son’s school.

The natural instinct of a mother is to encourage her child. I know my younger son has a sharp mind and he is capable of a lot. Through our encouragement and his own determination, he has learnt Taekwondo and can swim and play football. He writes using his feet and can also write holding his pencil to his cheek. I try to make him as independent as possible. Sometimes he’s lazy and asks me to bring him a glass of water and I tell him not to be lazy and to get his own! He is an average nine year old boy who dreams about cars and one day being able to drive.

I am by nature a positive person with a strong faith in God. I feel blessed to be the mother of two sons. A couple of years ago, my younger son asked me why he didn’t have hands. I told him that God makes people in different ways and that God has his own plans and reasons. I also truly believe that there is a reason that this little boy was sent to me.

Disabilities are varied (physical, intellectual, mental) and cannot simply be categorized into one group. There is growing recognition of this, but there is still a long way to go. The important thing is – and the message that SFS aims to get across is – that children with disabilities don’t need pity, they need acceptance. As a community, we should show children with special needs that they are important and that they are valuable members of the community, and no less deserving of a good life.”

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