Archive for the ‘The Early Days’ Category

A lesson from the Wild


Today’s post is by me, Haziq’s mum. I came across this beautiful picture of a silverback gorilla contentedly sitting in a still pond covered with vegetation. There it sits seemingly oblivious to the photographer and all else. A quick glance suggests that the gorilla is merely looking at a leaf just before munching it. Perhaps. Or perhaps there’s a gentle breeze and the gorilla is enjoying a quiet moment watching the delicate leaf swaying in the breeze. This picture struck so deep within me because I have seen my son in this same quiet pose much of his toddler life. Replace the gorilla with a child and there’s Haziq, sitting calmly in the water (always calm when in water) and playing with any leaf within his reach. Oddly enough I do not recall the same fascination with flowers. Perhaps flowers are too diverse or offer too much sensory stimulation for his brain to take in.

When in the sea, leaves are replaced by seaweeds. He would run his fingers through them, loving the tactile responses and laughing to himself. I remember being upset and snatching them away and forcing him to play ball or catch or whatever the cousins were doing in the water. I did not want people looking at my son as if he was a freak. If I knew then what I know now I would have understood that collecting seaweeds and gleefully hiding fingers into the squishy mass was a form of play for him. It probably gave him a comforting sense of connection….. that his hands were somehow part of his body. I learned this from a book written by a mildly autistic woman named Donna Williams who succeeded in fighting her way out of ‘her autistic world’ into ‘their world’ – the world where reality resides. She explained that all parts of her body felt disconnected when she was autistic and knew something was different that miraculous morning because for the first time she could actually feel her legs attached to her body. She felt connected, whole. I read the book so many years ago but I remember that revelation of hers was like a stab in the heart. I walked around that day paralyzed with grief because for the very first time I understood what it was like to be him.

Enjoy the photo taken by a very inspiring National Geographic photographer, Ian Nichols. How I wish I had taken a similar photo of Haziq sitting in the water playing with his leaf. It would have offered a very interesting angle of Man vs Animal. Lastly, a quotation about animals that Haziq would surely agree on whole heartedly;

Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms – George Elliot

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“My Name is Khan”……… the movie


This is Haziq’s Mum, Shimah. Yesterday we watched a movie called “My name is Khan”. I am not a great fan of Bollywood’s love tragic drama, break-out-into-a-song routine kind of movies but this one was very different indeed. Incredibly it did not have even one sing-dance number. It did have the popular star, Shah Rukh Khan who I must admit is very pleasing to the eyes but the greatest motivating factor to watch this movie was because he played the character of an autistic man. Well, an extremely high-functioning man with Asperger’s Syndrome. I say that not because he  can invent a device to pump out water from a flooded compound or that he could tackle the complexities of public transportation but because he fell in love (recognized the emotion, love for the opposite sex), had the desire for marriage and became responsible for another human. True, my knowledge and familiarity with autism is limited to my own life experience and all that seems unlikely where my son Haziq is concerned. At 22 he is more interested in theme parks than the cutest girl in front of his very eyes.

Back to the movie, kudos to the actor who played the young Khan. He portrayed a very believable autistic boy. I actually had the movie for over a month but waited till I was ready because I knew it would bring back sad memories of my coping with his disability. Watching the part where the young Khan was bullied brought me back to the time when I furiously waded into a hotel swimming pool fully dressed, to confront 3 bullies who were having fun pulling down Haziq’s swimming trunks repeatedly. Three young boys who did not know each other but formed a kinship when they found a common subject to bully. The saddest thing was one of the fathers was right there in the pool, grinning at his son’s antics. After I said some sharp words to the 3 bullies, the father just gave me a bored look and swam away with his son. In my fit of anger I cursed him and wished upon him the reality of having his own child diagnosed as autistic one day. Moments later the regret sets in. It should never, ever, be something to wish upon another parent.

Of festivals and feasting


SELAMAT HARI RAYA to all Malaysians and a Happy Eid Mubarak for the rest of the world. Another year of completion of the month of fasting.

I'm on the right in my usual stiff pose. Behind us is Granduncle's kampung (village) house.

Last week we went back to Linggi, our kampung (village, hometown) to celebrate Hari Raya with our huge extended family. How huge? Picture a football-sized field (almost) with dozens of parked cars and a sizeable canopy enough to shield close to a  hundred people from the sun while they enjoyed a hearty feast. I do not know half of the family and I don’t remember the names of the half that I do know. Festivals like these are more often for me just blurred memories filled with laughter (of other people), lots of food and relatives dressed in their best. The part I like best about going back to the kampung is the chance to pet and feed the baby goats that belong to grand-uncle.

It used to be a terrible, tormented time for me because I would keep my hands pressed on my ears to keep out the painful noise and when it got too much I would just sit and cry for hours. Mum refused to stay away or keep me secluded in a quiet room. She kept whispering “it’s alright, we will overcome” as she rocked me back and forth. And I did overcome. By the time I was 5 years old  I was able to join in the festivities without freaking out. The next thing I had to learn was to fight the temptation of  the sweet stuff. It was everywhere I looked, unlike at home where there wasn’t a trace of sugar due to my strict no-sugar diet. You can’t imagine what it’s like to see the spread of mouth-watering desserts and not being allowed to eat it. Of course, the ugly tantrums made its appearance. Relatives told Mum to relax, let the poor kid have some…after all it’s Hari Raya. Mum did not budge. The only exception she made was to allow me the colorful non-aerated drinks…….diluted so much that it tasted like plain water but I was none the wiser.

Road sign named after my great-grandfather

This road is named after my great-grandfather, Dato' Hj Mohd Yusof. A school behind me is also named after him.

On the way home, Dad stopped by a road sign and told me that the school and road was named after my great-grandfather, Haji Mohd Yusof. Wow, I think its cool to have a school AND road named after you don’t you think? Never mind if it’s just a small road in the village. It means my great-grandfather must have played an important role in the community and this is the way he is honored and remembered by the said community. He was known to be a serious, highly respected man whose occupation was then known as  ‘visiting school inspector’. Mum said I may never have a road named after me but hey, I have a blog in my name. That’s pretty cool too.

“No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” –

Calvin Coolidge, American 30th President of the U.S.A

If it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it


Haziq is taking a break so today I am writing in the capacity of Haziq’s mother. I was asked to share my experience on bedtime discipline.

The most common sense thing is no sugar intake hours before bedtime. Haziq was put on a sugar-free, no preservatives, no artificial coloring/flavoring, diet since he was diagnosed at 2.5 years old so this was no problem. No problem meant he couldn’t get access to sugary stuff at home but we still had big problems keeping him away from sugar when out in public. Allow only short afternoon naps. Make preparation for bedtime a regular series of events e.g a bath, change into pyjamas, make a big show of looking at the clock and announcing the time (never mind if he didn’t know how to tell time). Before that, ensure room is cool and blinds drawn. For us, saying goodnight at the bottom of the stairs was a happy, kissing, waving event….. but no last-minute tickling games. The operative word here is CALMNESS.

He gets into the crib and is rewarded with his favorite night toy. A toy which is made available only during bedtime. Then comes the most important part. Put on classical, baroque music. The same CD every single night until he recognizes his ‘sleep music’. I may have lost some readers here. What’s baroque did you say? Baroque music expresses order yet it is always tuneful. In my CD the first song was Vivaldi’s  The Four Seasons which is actually four concertos, combined into a concert. This same CD served its purpose for all my 3 children so much so that till today I am unable to listen to this music without falling asleep.

I got the above tip from Haziq’s progressive doctor, Dr. Kadir. Please remember that this was the pre-Internet era. We were starving for information about this thing called autism. When Haziq was first diagnosed I was directed to The Lutheran Church’s library for reading material. They were generous enough to allow a Muslim woman become a member. It was from their 3 library books that I devoured all knowledge of autism. If I ever run for politics I have to ensure my membership to the church is never revealed. LOL.

Lastly, say goodnight, put the baby monitor on and leave the room. Yes I said leave the room (we played games with the baby monitor so he knows he can be heard). If he gets up at night just give water which quickly bores him and gets him back to sleep. Certainly there were nights when all this didn’t work but they were infrequent. Even normal kids give parents a hard time so this part of the training was very significant in terms of time, effort and creativity. However, once regulated he went to sleep like clockwork and I got my much-needed rest. Well worth it.

Sorry about such a long post but I hope to be of help. Lastly, an old orchestra joke, “If it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it.”