I am from Somalia and now live in Minnesota. My son was diagnosed with autism at age 3 1/2, and that completely changed my world and outlook. I have never heard of the word autism and never knew a Somali adult with autism. In fact, there is not even a Somali word for Autism.
I believe everything happens for a reason and God has plans for all of us. I also believe God does not give anyone more than they can handle. I am glad I had my son, he is the light of my apple and is the reason I get up every day. Now, I think and breath autism every day. Autism has changed my life profoundly in both challenging and amazing ways. It has made me a more compassionate person that cares for all people with disabilities.
Before my son had autism, I don’t think I ever noticed or looked twice at anyone with a disability – now I notice everyone with a disability, especially autism. I want to help and support them. Autism has made me realize in vivid colors that no one is perfect. We are all imperfect in a perfect way. I thank God for my son every day and hope all parents find peace in their child’s autism. It is hard, but the reward is so much greater.
In my autism advocacy since 2008, I have had an incredible journey starting where I could not even say the word autism out-loud where I felt ashamed that I did something wrong to cause my son’s autism to have the opportunity to be invited to the White House, United Nations, impact positive autism policy changes in Minnesota and nationwide, and get so much support and letters from as high as the Speaker of U.S House of Representatives John Boehner and President Obama. I am also very grateful to all of the media coverage and friends I have made in this journey who told our pain, joy, and frustrations with autism in so many articles, documentaries, and stories. In addition, while I might have been the vocal voice, there were strong silent voices behind me in our community starting with Dr. Fahia, Hussein Samatar, Mohamed Jibrell, and Abdulrahman Adam. Without them, we would not be where we are with autism and the Somali community. My gratitude for them is priceless!
I would never have imagined this journey, and I am grateful and better for it.
I hope good health, happiness, and prosperity for my son and all children/adults with autism around the globe.
In the news:
Study links autism and Somali children – NY Times
Autism hits Somali kids harder – Mpls Star Tribune
Somali parents at Odds with MDH – MPR News
Autism therapy approved for Minnesota – Mpls Star Tribune
Autism Conference at the White House – Mpls Star Tribune
Autism higher in U.S born Somali children – New York Times
World Autism Day at the United Nations in 2013, grateful to have been invited and speak
Interview by Julia Nekessa Opoti from Twin Cities Daily Planet and AM 950 Radio in 2011 (Thanks Julia!)
Autism in the Somali Community by Almanac with Idil Abdull and MDH Commissioner Dr. Sanne M