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May 23, 2014 | Asia Pacific: Pakistan

Transforming Lives

By Lubna Nawaz

Haseeb with maam Ronak lakkani.

This is the story of a 15-year-old boy with autism, Muhammad Haseeb Abbasi. Haseeb played bocce for Special Olympics in Pakistan. He represented Pakistan in the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games in Australia in December 2013, where he won three gold medals. Haseeb was diagnosed with autism at the age of twelve years by Dr Catherine Aldred PhD. during our visit to to the United Kingdom. Prior to this all our efforts for the diagnosis of our children (we have two boys, and both of them are autistic) within Pakistan were in vain. Some of the symptoms were identifiable as early as 2 years and till 8 and half years, he was nonverbal. He attended a regular school till class 7 but the problem was his communication with the fellow students and teachers. He was noncommunicative, always wanted to sit alone in the class, never participated in any of the activities, obsessively lining up his toys in perfectly straight lines with no eye contact with anyone.

And so things were becoming difficult not only for him but for me also. I feared that I may never have a close relationship with my son, I didn’t know how to reach him and at times I felt helpless. Autism was a new term for us in Pakistan, and we knew very little about it. Presently there are hardly any specialist services or schools available for autistic individuals. The majority of the parents therefore are on their own.

Fortunately for me, with the help and motivation of a local Special Olympics coach, Mrs.Irfana Kayyani, I was introduced to the Special Olympics Pakistan Program. Now, I am a volunteer for Special Olympics Pakistan.

Special Olympics has changed Haseeb completely. It has instilled in him a desire to improve, to listen and to learn. Each small success has built his self confidence. Yes, Special Olympics Pakistan has taught him a lot, much more than I can ever imagine for him. Haseeb has now transformed into a confident individual who can hold conversations with strangers.

Special Olympics Pakistan is supported by an A Very Special Christmas grant.

About Lubna Nawaz: My name is Lubna Nawaz.  I am mother of Haseeb and now part of Family Support Network Special Olympics Pakistan.
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