Tahirah Mohamed
Mother of 7

Assalamualaikum! You have 7 children, ma shaa Allah! Please tell me how you spend an average day in your life.

Every day at 5.30am, my three boys will shower and solat while I prepare their breakfast. I apply essentials oils on them. They leave after we exchange salaam and hugs. My husband and daughter will be the next to get ready for work and school. After they leave, I will have breakfast with my three younger boys. They listen to ‘Asmaul Husna’ (99 names of Allah) on replay and watch cartoons while I quickly do minimal housework. Major housework will be done during the weekend with the rest of the family. If I have enough time, I will play with my children or read to them. By noon, all my children are home. I will coach them on their homework or revision. Right after dinner, I will teach them iqra’ (recitation). If I am occupied, my older children with teach the younger ones. All my children sleep by 10 pm. Then, I either spend my time reading or watching TV alone or with my husband. Midnight is bedtime for me.

Tell us more about your children.

I have six boys and a girl aged 14, 11, 9, 6, 3 and a pair of twins aged 1. My oldest was diagnosed with autism while my second was diagnosed with ADHD. A lot of emotions were involved when they were diagnosed. I was confused and felt agitated. My friends and family were good listeners but still, no one understood my fears. At that time, there was no support group around. I felt my world crashing down, together with the hopes and aspirations I had for my boys. My husband and I felt lost but we never gave up hope. I knew that my husband would support any decision that I made.

For a start, I told myself that I needed to help myself first before I could help my sons. I grieved by bringing myself closer to Allah. I read whatever motivational words I could find in the Qur’an and also borrowed books on autism and ADHD. Alhamdulillah, I felt much better after accepting their conditions, empowering myself with knowledge and finding great support from parents who also have children with autism and ADHD.

What is the greatest challenge you faced? How did you overcome it?

My greatest challenge was when my son with autism had a meltdown and I wasn’t around to help. My son was thirteen and a student in a mainstream school. The transition from primary to secondary school is a huge one for any child. However, it is even harder for a child with autism to adapt to a new environment. One morning, an incident happened on his way to school. His overwhelming anxieties escalated into a meltdown. That meltdown nearly cost his life. He had forgotten my advice on prioritizing his personal safety. I saw the whole thing happen as I was watching him from my bedroom. I quickly notified his Allied Educator and requested for a follow-up. Alhamdulillah, he had reached school safely. Through feedback from his Allied Educator and a note he wrote on the experience, I learned that he needed more time to be ready for school and more reminders of what to look out for. My husband and I sat down with him and discussed the cause and effect of doing things impulsively. Alhamdulillah, he now understands that when it comes to safety, he must always prioritise his life first. As his mother, I still shudder and sometimes cry when I think about it.

How does your family cope?

In this life, we are to be tested. Allah teaches us to be resilient through calamities. We are being tested because Allah wants us to be better Muslims than before. When afflicted with calamity, we say the istirja’ “innalillahi wa inna ilaihi rajiun.” It means, “Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” This sentence reminds us that we belong to Allah and that He does what He wills with His servants. Therefore, we seek help and put our trust completely in Allah. There are ways to draw courage, hope, love and inspiration from. Through solah (prayer), we get relief from hardships. Reading the Qur’an helps too as it is a source of healing and gives mercy to those who believe. Another way is dua (supplication). Being able to make dua is such a beautiful gift. Islam also encourages us to give charity because it has many benefits. One of the benefits is that we are protected from tragedies. Islam teaches us everything – how to treat with our parents, how to be kind to others, how to deal with adversity and what to do to succeed in this world and the Hereafter. The best person with an exemplary character we can follow is none other than Rasulullah SAW.

What do you want to say to people who may meet kids with ADHD or autism?

When you see a child screaming on the floor of a supermarket or a shouting child trying to get away from his mom in the MRT, what is your first thought? Bratty tantrums? Rude meltdowns? Either way, don’t blame the parents and don’t judge the child. ADHD and autism are not caused by poor parenting, eating too much or chaotic family environments. Both ADHD and autism stem from being neurologically different. The brains of people with autism and ADHD are uniquely wired. When my son had meltdowns in public, I noticed stares, glares, unwanted whispers and harsh comments. These were extremely hurtful. It would be nice if someone could give us a warm smile or even approach us and ask, “Are you okay?” These three little words seem so simple but they mean so much. These words provide comfort to parents of children with special needs. Families of children with special needs need to know that we have your support and that we do have a place in the community. I truly believe that a nation’s biggest asset is a community that cares.

What do you want to say to parents with kids who have special needs?

Behind that label is a person so take your time to know your child. Get yourself educated on your child’s special needs. Get to know his personality, his likes and dislikes. Work on his strengths. When you catch him doing good things, praise him for his effort. Do activities together with your child at the park, beach and gardens like Botanical Gardens or Gardens by the Bay. Be with nature. Give your child sensory experiences that teach them about various objects, help them develop dexterity, and let them put words to the sensations. Give more hugs and kisses. Don’t worry too much about things that are to come.

Remember, your child depends on you. You are their link to the world. So you have to be mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually strong. To achieve that, you must remember to take care of yourself no matter what. Seek help when you feel overwhelmed. Make time to go for talks about your child’s disability and effective parenting. Take a walk in the park for 30 minutes. Enjoying the sun, breeze and greenery can be very therapeutic. Do your favourite things and talk to your loved ones and good friends. Stay connected with the world out there. You don’t have to wait for happiness to come; seek it. Watch a comedy or two. Read comics. Have a good laugh. Believe that you are stronger than you ever dreamed possible. Some days you need to cry, and that is okay. Allah makes you helpless so you may learn sabr, for which the reward is immense. With sabr, comes victory.

You may have avoided bringing your child to the public. However, for your child to grow and develop, he needs exposure. He needs to learn how to be part of the community. Be brave and bring him out. Let him have the pleasure to learn and adapt. Things will get better with every outing. It isn’t fair when the others throw insensitive comments. However, you and your child are on a different path. Forgive them and you will learn to let go of your emotional baggage. With forgiveness, you will find peace. As the vicegerents of Allah, do not lose hope and never give up. Keep on praying for your child and for yourself. Continue with your effort. You are doing a great job! Pat yourself on your back and give yourself a round of applause. -grin-

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