Tell us a little bit about yourself.
What KSA city do you live in?
Im an American Muslimah who's been here in Madinah Munawwarah for 5 years now with my husband and children alhamdulilah.
What types of special needs services are available in your city?
There is the Disabled Children's Association who primarily have students with physical disabilities. They do not accept non-Saudi children though, nor do they accept children who have hearing loss, Autism or significant cognitive disabilities like children with Downs Syndrome. There is also the Amal School which is for students who are deaf, non-Saudis are welcome but I don't think its that easy to be accepted. Then there is Rehabilitation Steps Institute where I was a program manager for a while. Students of all nationalities and disabilties are welcome there. There is also a school for children with Autism here in Madinah, but after my visit there, I was discouraged in calling it something complete for children within the ASD. Truth is, there are clinics and such, but it is extremely difficult to find a suitable center for kids and their families dealing with disabilties around here. So I try to help out with advice and whatever consulting I can to assist these families, by the permission of Allah.
Tell us a little about Occupational Therapy.
What made you want to be an Occupational Therapist?
What has been some of your experiences in KSA with children or adults who have special needs?
There really needs to be an dramatic increase of awareness here in Saudi for people with disabilties. I think the Kingdom is trying, but there is just too much to be done in raising the bar for our Muslim brothers and sisters who are living with this. Relgiously, as Muslims we believe in the Qadar of Allah. That is, we believe that Allah has every single little thing totally planned out. But I feel here in Saudi this belief overshadows something important for us as Muslims as well, and that is we are to try our best, to strive for the best result. Here in Saudi, it is common to see parents who obviously love their children, but yet do not bring in their children for special needs services until they are 5-7 years old and too heavy to carry around. These parents and families should be made aware of the resources around them because often times they are completely oblivious to services which they may very well be entitled to.
What have you done to get familes of special needs children involved?
I've done workshops for mothers, written emails to both mothers and fathers, have consulted with some schools here in Madinah, have made rec's to the Prophets Mosque for improved accessibility and am working on some letters to the Ministries inshaAllah.
Are you an advocate for more awareness, programs and services to be available to people living in Saudi?
Absolutely. I feel that everyone, regardless of one's degree, should be an advocate. It is a Islamic responsibility to care for others and give good advice whenever possible. Compassion is crucial and I am loud about educating others in anway I can especially when it comes towards the issue of 'pity'. Honestly, no one loves to be pitied. So rather than throwing sympathy at a person who is obviously struggling with something, offering them empathy works much better because it is a tool of motivation for them.
Do you offer any private services for disabiled people in your area?
Yes. Alhamdulilah. Sometimes Ill meet them at the Prophets Masjid, at schools and however Allah enables me to.