He should have been nervous. The people around him certainly were.
Haseeb was right in his element.
Non-verbal as a child, Haseeb has blossomed into a motivational speaker, book publisher, TV personality, inspiration and, most recently, entrepreneur.
Speaking in front of 40,000 people was a thrill, not an anxious moment for the Pakistani athlete.
“I remember Haseeb being the most excited he had ever been,” said Syed Ali Roshan, Haseeb’s mentor. “I was nervous just being off stage, but he was really excited.”
Haseeb has made quite a transformation.
Growing up in the suburbs of Islamabad, Haseeb could understand his parents and other kids, but lacked the ability to respond. He often spent his early days in school alone, avoiding eye contact, and was prone to outbursts as he struggled to communicate.
Haseeb was 12 when he and his younger brother, Hashim, were diagnosed with autism during a trip to London. Haseeb’s mother enrolled him in special education and he thrived, passing his secondary school examinations and earning a scholarship.
Haseeb could mimic sounds he heard—cartoon characters were a favorite—when he was younger and spoke publicly at a Special Olympics event for the first time.
The microphone and a boosted confidence brought the words out.
Now 22, Haseeb is thriving. He won two bocce gold medals the 2013 Special Olympics Asia Pacific Regional Games in Australia, not long after his father was diagnosed with cancer and had his vocal chords removed.
Haseeb published the book, Stories of Special Souls, after receiving a grant at the 2017 Special Olympics Global Youth Leadership Summit in Austria to chronicle the lives of people with intellectual abilities, including himself. He’s been a regular on Lahore TV and Channel 6 in Pakistan whenever there’s a Special Olympics event and, at 17, received a standing ovation at a TEDx talk.
Haseeb also joins Roshan, a youth activation coordinator for Special Olympics Pakistan, when he travels to schools to spread a message of inclusion.
“It’s really important that I’m a public speaker and I’m a motivational speaker to talk about people with intellectual disabilities,” Haseeb said. “I believe we can do more in our lives.”
Haseeb certainly has. He’s even become a business owner.
While in Singapore with Roshan a few years ago, Haseeb liked that people could buy coffee from roadside kiosks and wanted to do something similar. Haseeb doesn’t drink coffee—he’s really good at making it, though—and Pakistanis prefer tea and chai, so he had a healthier idea.
He opened a juice bar.
Squeezy the Juice Bar opened last October and Haseeb helps run it with his parents. Haseeb rides his bike to the juice bar every day and spend up to six hours a day serving “Squeezies.”
“I wanted to open the juice bar so I can make different flavored juices for people,” he said.
Haseeb and his family run the juice bar themselves, but are hoping to hire employees to help them soon.
Haseeb’s goal: to hire other people with intellectual disabilities.