Jassim Mohamad, a graduating student at Qatar Foundation’s Awsaj Academy, describes his journey with autism, and how his mother and his school gave him confidence in his creative skills
One evening in Ramadan, I saw my mother praying and, as she bent over to worship, I heard her whispering: “God, be with me, give me strength, and faith so that I can fulfill my mission towards my son Jassim, in providing a good life for him, and a future that makes his laughter brighter. “
I knew my mother loved me so much, but I did not understand why she needed to ask for so much power to help me. But then I remembered the day she took me to the medical center when I was four years old, and the sad expression of her face when the doctor told her that I had Autism.
When I was diagnosed with autism, my mother told me: my son, we are all different, and if we try to be normal, we will never know how special we can be. Be confident that I will always be there for you
That night, my mother made me sit in her lap and told me: “My son, we are all different, and if we try to be normal, we will never know how special we can be. Be confident that I will always be there for you. Together, we will overcome any challenges we face in this life.”
I could not fully understand what my mother was saying to me, and I was unable to speak to ask her, but I felt calm while listening to her. And although her eyes were hardly holding back tears, they did not hide the light of hope that my mother would hold for so many years.
Every time I made progress, my mother would clap for me and then pick me up – that was my favorite game, because I could not stop laughing with her
I started having rehabilitation, speech training, and skills enhancement sessions at Hamad Medical Corporation’s Rumailah Hospital, intended to allow me to be more able to speak, express myself, and communicate. Every time I made progress, my mother would clap for me and then pick me up – that was my favorite game, because I could not stop laughing with her.
One day, my mother gave me a box of crayons, and some notebooks, and began to teach me drawing, which I found enjoyable and which quickly turned into a means of communication. I began to draw everything I could not express, so my mother understood my needs better.
And every night before I slept, my mother would start telling me a story, then she would stop and say: “Invent the ending to this story that you love. This story belongs to you.” I would keep thinking until I succeeded in creating an ending that amazed my mother.
She also often pinned her fingers against my fingers and press them, and I heard her groaning. At first, I could not understand why, because I didn't feel anything. But, over time, I started to feel pain just like her, and say: "Ouch, it is hurting”. Later, my mother told me that she was teaching me how to express feelings of pain.
When she tells me about my early childhood, she says I was a beautiful and happy child, and that I now have a special personality. She tells everyone that I am a creative person, that my future will be bright. And I trust everything she says.
One day, my mother told my father that one of my teachers had told her: “Your son will not be able to enter high school, because he has no language nor any bridge to communicate.” She swore to take me to this teacher after I finished high school, to show that he was wrong. And now my mother's wish is being fulfilled, as I graduate from Awsaj Academy- where I have learned and grown for the past six years - and prepare to make the transition to university, where I will study virtual design.
At Awsaj Academy, I learned algebra and developed my mathematical ability. I learned English and how to use technology, I also, developed my skills in designing and programming
At Awsaj Academy, a school for children with mild to moderate learning needs, and part of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education, I learned algebra and developed my mathematical ability. I learned to speak English fluently. And, by learning how to use technology, I became more able to communicate with people of different cultures.
But the best thing I gained in my school is the respect and appreciation of my teachers and my fellow students. This helped me to believe in myself more, motivating me to develop my skills in designing and programming, and to create videos and electronic games as well as the music to accompany them. My dream is to be a game designer and programmer.
Autism has never been an obstacle to me because I learn, create, and dream
This is what I have become at Awsaj Academy: a productive and creative student, who has many ambitions and dreams, and who has made so many friends. I know who I am now. I am both energetic and peaceful. I love to travel, to exercise, and to wear traditional Qatari dress every day to the mosque. And not only do I love coffee, I have found I am very good at making it!
All of this makes my world beautiful. My environments, my education, and my family are all elements that have combined to make me an optimistic person.
Autism has never been an obstacle to me because I learn, create, and dream. I feel I am special because I feel I am unique. And, as my mother told me when I was a little boy, it is what is different about us that makes us special.