Autism is the kind of issue no one talks about in Lebanon, it is the kind of issue people try to avoid. However, it is important to note that “about 1 in 68 children has been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)”*.
Mira explains in her letter to her son (refer to below) that Autism is not a sickness, it is a disorder, and thus, it should not be judged.
A person with autism faces many challenges. Autism can disturb every sense from sight, smell and taste to sound and touch. Although their behaviors might be disorganized, people with ASD usually have their own rationalized structure. “While autism is incurable, the right support at the right time can make an enormous difference to people's lives”**.
Here is am interview from Mrs. Arwa El Amine Halawi, on how she discovered that her sone was autistic.
This led her later on to create the Lebanese Autism Society, an NGO catering for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
The LAS and other centers focusing Autistic Children, such as Sesobel, have 3 main objectives:
- Help and assist parents
- Provide autistic people with the best support
- Raise and spread public awareness about autism
“It is crucial to accompany children from early age whether from psychomotor therapist, psychologist, speech therapist and remedial teacher or from parents”, explains Mrs. Amal El Ghawi Daou, educational consultant at LAS. She believes that it is crucial to create the right environment that fits the autistic child according to his/her needs and rhythm.
In the end, Mira believes that diversity is a privilege and understanding others increases acceptance and foster support, and here are the sweet and inspiring words she offers her son Charbel:
« On me parle juste de “guérir mon fils”. On me parle de cette maladie de l’autisme et chaque fois, je dois expliquer que ce n’est pas une maladie. On me dit pauvre toi ! On me parle d’histoires d’horreur ou d’histoires de personnes autistes qui sont à l’université et qui finiront comme Einstein. Je sais que c’est plus fort que l’être humain, il doit regarder la différence ! En jugeant ou pas. Mais ce garçon est mon fils, mon amour, ma vie, peu importe sa différence ou le comportement qu’il a. C’est mon petit homme que j’aime. J’aimerais tellement qu’il grandisse en paix. Je me sens prisonnière de cette société qui n’accepte pas la différence. Et je ne parle pas seulement de l’autisme. Mais je ne veux pas emprisonner mon fils à la maison pour sentir la liberté. Continuons à parler, à s’instruire, à communiquer et surtout à accepter la différence sans la juger. Chaque personne est unique et toi mon fils, Charbel, tu es unique, je t’aime et je t’offre mon amour éternel, ma vie. »
“I'm told to just "heal my son". I am told about this autism like it’s a sickness and every time I have to explain that it is not a disease. I'm told poor you! I am told about horror stories or stories of people with autism who are at university and who will end up like Einstein. I know it is human nature to look for the differences! Judgingly or not. But this boy is my son, my love, my life, no matter how different he is or how he behaves. He is my little man that I love. I wish he could grow up in peace. I feel trapped by this society that does not accept differences. And I'm not just talking about autism. But I do not want to imprison my son at home for him to feel freedom. Let's continue to talk, to learn, to communicate and above all to accept difference without judging them. Each person is unique and you my son, Charbel, you are unique, I love you and I offer you my eternal love, my life.”