A video of an autistic child whirling in a dervish-isque spin to Momina Mustehsan & Asim Azhar’s Coke Studio rendition of “Tera Woh Pyaar (Nawazihein Karam)” caught our attention. The video featured “Sheru” twirling as means of expression.
His mother Mahvish Yasin had posted the video showcasing Sheru’s non-verbal autism talent.
“The more we see them in their different colors the more acceptance we create for people who are differently-abled”, wrote Mahvish in the video that has since been flooded with heart-warming messages from all over Pakistan.
Shaheer Azfar, fondly nicknamed Sheru, is a very talented seven-year-old boy currently studying in a special-ed school with his teaching aide.
Pictured here as part of a project at school “what will I be when I grow up”, Sheru has always been taught to embrace his capabilities, both at school and at home. Autistic children and many children with special needs require a specific tailor-made IEP (Individual Educational Programs). Due to the nature of their abilities, children with special needs refrain from following a regular academic structure. The educational milestones are defined as graduating to a different task, and later, a higher up standard.
Speaking to MangoBaaz about Sheru, Mahvish opened up about her fantastic journey of raising a differently-abed child.
Pictured here with her eldest son Aryan, her husband and “an incredible father” Azfar and Sheru, Mehvish is humble beyond words.
“Sheru is my second born, from the age of seven months, we noticed he was different. He didn’t make eye contact, didn’t fully recognize me as his mother. By age one, I was sure something was not right. By one and half, still; there were no words, a lot of hand flapping and toe walking. At two, we got our first Autism diagnosis. Since then, many people have been part of our journey, therapists, family and friends. Sheru is now seven years old.”
“When he was as young as three years of age, he had a musical ear and lived to spin to the rhythm. “
Today, Sheru is fairly expressive and can even say a few words, despite his non-vocal autism. He has overcome many challenges, which is a matter of immense pride for his family and friends.
“We have a long way to go and that can only happen with countless prayers. He is our blessing and there is not a single day we are not grateful to Allah. Children, whether they have special needs or typical, are all unique; they all deserve our attention and care. Once we adjust the lens of our expectations, the gray world converges into color.”
According to a recent research on Autism, there have been 350,000 cases of autistic children in Pakistan that amount to a stark statistic of one out of 66 children being born with Autism or Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The disorders present themselves as inabilities to conduct in social interactions and are also categorized by immense difficulties in vocal and non-verbal communication, repetitive behavior and mental cognition. The symptoms manifest between 18 months to three years of age.
With no way to fully reverse the disorders and the high numbers of children affected by them, it is only fitting for us to strive towards a society that removes the stigmas around autistic children. Parents raising autistic children or children with special needs are already crippled by challenges in terms of lack of awareness, little, if any, professional and medical care along with almost nonexistent centers for healthcare and support. Add social stigma on top of all this, many parents find themselves completely isolated. Mahvish dreams of a world where differently-abed, handicapable and children with special needs are treated with respect and love and granted opportunities to harness their full potential.