Amir struggled to get his autistic son the help he needed. Schools were rejecting him and getting him to learn was painstaking. Yet Amir knew that “God never makes anything bad”. On a recent episode of the SAT-7 show Speak Up, Amir shared how faith and perseverance changed his son’s future.
School is a challenge for many parents. The constant battle to get children to do their homework or to stick at subjects they find hard is a struggle. Households in the Middle East are no exception. However, for Amir, getting his son Oghostinos into a school to begin with took vision and determination.
Amir was ecstatic when he was given a healthy son. Yet, when he sent his son to pre-school, he soon learned that Oghostinos was severely autistic. In the Middle East, this diagnosis often disqualifies children from receiving any real education and destines them for a life of poverty and being cast aside from mainstream society.
FIGHTING FOR A MIRACLE
Amir was determined this would not happen to his son. Resigning from his job, he threw all his energy into helping Oghostinos to learn. He limited the amount of television Oghostinos was allowed to watch, took him on long walks and would speak in conversational tones to him as though Oghostinos were an adult.
When Oghostinos reached school age, his learning difficulties had significantly decreased. But, in a school admissions interview, he gave wrong answers to all the entrance questions. The school’s headmistress wanted to reject him.
Amir continued to fight tirelessly for his son. Every Saturday, he spent six hours in a room devoid of distractions, working with Oghostinos on homework. For two and a half years, they did this.
“It took Oghostinos six hours to write the letter A nine times,” Amir recalls.
For Oghostinos one of many obstacles was learning the letter B. Amir got so frustrated that he shouted at his son, making Oghostinos cry.
“I felt bad because I knew that Oghostinos couldn’t write it. If he could, he would have written it. I drew the letter B on the wall, took him in my arms and danced around the room. As we danced we repeated the letter B and Oghostinos learned it by heart,” Amir says.
When the school year began, his teacher complained of not being able to communicate with Oghostinos and threatened to remove him from the school for being unable to keep up with the other students. It wasn’t until Amir invited the teacher to his home on his son’s birthday that things changed.
Watching Amir speak with the teacher in his home, Oghostinos saw that his teacher could be trusted. “After a while into the conversation I noticed that Oghostinos smiled. I realised then that he had got the message and that he was ready to trust his teacher because she was now ‘on his father’s side’,” Amir says.
“GOD NEVER MAKES ANYTHING BAD”
From that moment on, everything changed. The following Saturday, Amir saw a transformation in his son. They finished in an hour what they had been taking six hours to complete.
“I noticed this change and began to cry… I knew that the Lord would do something great with Oghostinos. At the end of the week, the teacher called me and praised my son saying he is completely changed. He makes eye contact and concentrates in class like his classmates. He even remembered all the previous month’s materials.”
Books and films that have highlighted the achievements of children and adults on the autistic spectrum have been inspirational to many. The Reason I Jump, written when he was 13 by Naoki Higashida, a largely non-verbal Japanese writer with the condition, has become an international bestseller.
Throughout his battle to help his son, Amir was also determined to see beyond Oghostinos’ difficulties and help him reach his potential. When he spoke to the popular SAT-7 show Speak Up, a programme that shows how individuals overcome all kinds of difficulties, from life-threatening illness to war, Amir expressed the miracle that had resulted from his faith and perseverance:
God never makes anything bad at all. Autistic children are geniuses. If their parents work on the part in them that requires some effort they can make scientists out of them. Oghostinos is brilliant with numbers and has a strong memory.
Mariam, a teacher from Cairo who was watching the programme, called in to the show to endorse Amir’s persistence. She said, “I see many cases like this one and many parents who are unable to deal with their autistic children. Many of them cry and ask why God gave them autistic children. I thank the Lord that Amir could use this gift from God and work on it.”
Read about other people who have shared their stories of overcoming challenges on Speak Up.
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