Salute to the Fathers!

Salute to the fathers, Salute to the Omani fathers from very deep within my heart!

During my course in London, a Danish speech therapist came over to me surprised, asking if I see fathers of young clients in my clinic where I come from. Hearing me proudly say “YES, in fact more fathers than mothers attend therapy sessions with their child” left her gobsmacked! I honestly do not know the source of her surprise or what exactly she meant by that. I can only assume and I will assume; maybe, because Arab men are usually perceived as Macho macho, hence the thought that they would show limited care towards their children? Maybe, she thought about the segregation of genders in my country, hence the surprise that I do actually meet men in my clinic? Other than these two reasons, I found the surprise rather shallow because what I see within the walls of my clinic is by far the most compassionate of relationships. A relationship that is devoid of lies, hypocrisy or personal interests. The all heart relationship between “father and child”!

I do not deny the role of the mother here, I only do not flaunt about it now because it’s the “default” setting if you like, a mother concerned about her child that is. You rarely see otherwise in almost all cultures. However, when the father takes the driving seat, when he runs for his child’s interest for whatever it costs, when the mother is at home and have never even met the therapy behind her child’s improvement, and the father brings the child in for a long-term fortnightly therapy session that could last for years (it happens). That’s the tender heart of a father I’m talking about.  

I’ll leave you with this true story that left me touched, disturbed and impressed in the same split of a second, while taking the case history of a child in clinic.

The Doctor calls me referring a patient with a complicated history of multiple abnormalities. A few minutes later, a gentleman, a lady and the little child are in my clinic. The lady sits on a chair, the child on another chair, sadly I do not have a special chair for children with hypotonia (very weak muscles), their sitting positions are difficult to maintain, someone needs to hold the child or else he’ll lean sideways and could fall down quite instantly. The father kneels on the ground holding his son with his arms, helping him maintain his posture while the child moves, jerks and twitches uncontrollably. 

I started taking the case history, asking the lady pre and post birth questions. I took it for granted (like I assume you all did) that she was the mother. She was apparently the paternal grandmother (She looked really young, it must be the pure heart she has that gave her the glow). After a few questions, I saw a few hesitations with back and forth looks from the lady and her son (the father), as if contemplating whether to trust me and expose the hidden bit or not, and they started… The child had been neglected the care of his mother since birth, or actually the mother has lost this precious son to suit her ego and her heartless family. The story is, after the child had been born, the mother astonished by the amount of physical abnormalities her son has, decided to run away from the hospital, abandoning her son under her family pressure that she will not enter their house with a disabled! The father and his mother were left or rather privileged with the responsibility of taking care of this young boy.

Not only do they care for this child, they show tender love and absolute affection beyond imagination. The grandmother showed repeatedly how blessed she is to have him. The child’s mother on the other hand filed a divorce, got her wish granted, re-married and has a family of her own now. She has never seen her first child after the abandonment in hospital.

I was left repeating “Subhan Allah” all day long!

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Back. Wolverhampton. London. Courses. Eid

I had a good break, fully rejuvenated and fresh to start blogging again. Also, packed with great knowledge and a good boost of confidence to go back to work next week!

This is what my journey looked like, I’ll try to make it short and simple for you readers, so respect that and read on 😉

Have you ever used all modes of transportation in one single day, I proudly did for my trip from Muscat to Wolverhampton! Do I recommend it, a clear cut “NO”, it’s exhausting… but was great fun I must admit. We (the Mr. and I) were dropped off by car to the airport early morning, the 8th of September, took a comfortable flight to Birmingham airport, the tram to the train station, the train to Wolverhampton and our legs on a rainy evening to the hotel.

Wolverhampton:I expected a small town, I was mistaken it was a lively city just outside Birmingham. Fairly new, with shiny buildings, very different from those of old cities in the UK. The course was a 15-min walk from the hotel, not too bad, quite refreshing to start your day walking, considering the good weather of course. We’ve been quite lucky with the weather during our two week stay in UK this time, it doesn’t usually go that way!

The 2-day “Adult Stammering Intervention” course by two respected and well-known professionals in the field was phenomenal, in fact they declared that this was the last course they do together as one of them had already retired, call me “lucky”.

On the 12th, 4 days post-arrival, we took the train to London.

London:the city of diversity I’ll happily name it. You walk and hear 101 languages echoing back and forth, you do not feel outcast, you just fit in wherever you go. I remember hating London so much when I was younger, the last time I was there was with family, I was say 15 at the time. My father is not exactly calm, just imagine what he’d be like in an underground station trying to catch the next tube, with children roaming around fascinated by things they’d never seen before. His temper evaporates, then condensates on me to give me a tainted image of London for some 11 years, an image of rush and fury that is. London has definitely managed to erase that old image, I actually now understand why people go head over heels in London. I cannot imagine myself living in London, it’s too “hype” for my liking, but I totally understand those who love it. The city has changed drastically, it’s become exceptionally diverse.  Walking and staring that’s what you do when you’re going around. You just enjoy looking at people rushing, hugging their plastic cups of coffee in one hand (here we go with the love of coffee again!) and a bagful of papers or a laptop in the other! All minding their own business. I particularly liked the formal looks on people from head to toe, actually from head to ankles (in suits), their foots in casual trainers for a comfortable run to and from work place! What a sight. Love life, love London! 

Why was I in London again? Oh the course! The second course was the Palin PCI (Parent Child Interaction) for early childhood stammering, in simple language, Stammering therapy for preschoolers. The course was top notch, well structured and beautifully presented.

Practical for Omani culture? I don’t know! From the title you can tell what it’s all about; the aim of this therapy is to promote parent-child interaction, it’s achieved by recording video tapes of each parent playing with the child. Mother playing with her child (acceptable, but video recording this interaction, typically not!). Father playing with the child (not culturally acceptable, recording it, no problem). Go figure! I’ll have a hard time applying this exact strategy, I’ll have to make a few adaptions, until we’re more open to this notion of video recording the Ma’s and convincing the Fa’s that going down to your child’s level and actually playing can help in stammering. We’re a practical nation, the first thing parents usually ask in clinic after my long session of reassuring, explaining and choosing a therapy method is: “shai duyaat?” (Any medicine?). You just love them, so simple, get the medicine and go home!   

On the 20th of Sept, Eid was announced in London, we broke our fast one day earlier than family in Oman! I could’ve made it to Oman for eid, but it would have been extremely tiring to celebrate eid right after an 8-hour travel. Another reason or the “hidden agenda” to be more precise is because I had made plans to meet some special cousins namely; Miss.W, the well-known Kamakazy and Soulmate -yes, she’s behind the comments around this blog-!

This may sound harsh for some or illogical to many, but I enjoy Eid abroad just as much as I enjoy it at home. Eid has its special scent that follows you wherever you go! As long as I’ve got some family members around, I do not mind it one bit. We’ve had waffles and coffee for breakfast, instead of the meat and rice ( Arsiya- usually served on breakfast, day one of eid). Then, had the best shawarma anyone can ever dream of, in fact I’ve read reviews on the internet suggesting that it is the best Shawarma in the whole world. HEAVEN… Shahrayar can tell you all about it, he secretly got himself another bite of that heaven the next day (while I was shopping with Soulmate)!  

Not to bore you and prolong this post longer than it is now, I’ll leave you with the taste of shawarma in your mouth. Don’t bother getting one from wherever you are, that London shawarma was exceptional!

I’ll get back with more stories about this trip, oh and pictures also coming soon. No not of the shawarma unfortunately, I wouldn’t share the mouth-watering Tehini with my camera 😉

Posting from England

GoodBye

Goodbye

 

Goodbye…. wait, I’m still blogging, I just won’t be posting much for the next couple of weeks! I’m in the UK for a course, guessed it? Yup a stuttering course, thinking about it makes me freak out, because I’ve travelled an 8-hour flight for stuttering and it’s becoming the last thing I think about late at night. I seriously need help, I think I’ve gone beyond the “crush” or “infatuation” stage, I’m in a serious relationship with stuttering!!! I know I know I’m married, I feel bad but rest assured I’m now working on a strategy to open-up to my husband, I should really tell him about this new love, don’t you think?

Ouch.. my speech hurts!

I’m on cloud 9, a package I’ve ordered from the States a month ago has FINALLY arrived! I was eagerly waiting for it all month, literally counting the minutes. I’ve actually sent the company 2 emails requesting an explanation for the delay! Well, I’m sure you ALL (without exceptions) start counting down the minute you press the “order” button for an online purchase. It takes your patience to the limits, to the point of mental breakdown for some people, really! Don’t we all LOVE packages?

Anyway, the package is from “The Stuttering Foundation“, they have amazing stuff, ones that make your mouth drool and your eyes glitter. I hope you never need such material, ever Inshallah… I do need them, because I’m in love with speech disorders, I actually have a crush on stuttering! The knowledge of it and the therapy of it. If you’ve been surfing my blog long enough, you’d notice that I’m a Speech therapist, I may not be the best I admit but I work with passion, it makes me happy….and satisfied.  

Just imagine the two scenarios (in an attempt to give you a taste of how parents end up in my clinic) :

A new baby is born, physical abnormalities (a health condition like a heart defect, or more obvious like a missing limb) are noticed on-spot by specialists and treated accordingly. Right away, parents start their grieving process from denial to acceptance.  The child receives medical attention instantly and intervention pathway is all set, it’s all standard. In developed/ing countries parents may have all the counselling they need even before they actually care to memorise the “medical term” of that physical disability.

On the other hand, when the problem is “invisible” or rather “gradually inclining” like speech, it’s a totally different story. Take “stuttering” for example, the developing child will never come to say: “Mama, ouch.. my speech hurts”, a parent has to have speech detecting capabilities to notice that her child speaks somewhat different than his peers. Next, with all the reassurance a parent gets from the grandparent, the uncle, the housemaid, the neighbour and also the random lady who happened to observe the child speak and generously gave a healing recipe of garlic, some cardamom and a dash of fresh turmeric powder for the definite cure. The child either lives with his speech impediment until something more dramatic happens for the parent to pursue their investigations. Or maybe the more “active” parent chooses to ignore the reassurance received and makes it to the Paediatrician. Now if the parent has met a too-much-know Dr. (there are a lot of them by the way), the parent gets even more reassurance and heads back home, thanks God and sleeps, the child is left to suffer for the rest of his life. Or the Dr. happens to be the down-to-earth type, realises his limitations and refers the child to a speech therapist, and that’s where the rescue comes in!

This is just a perfect scenario, the stories of how the parent ends up knocking my door are intriguing, to say the least. I guess you’ve realised by now the choices a parent has to make  or the chances a parent has to encounter before they start knocking my door. It’s not a straight forward nor a standard journey.  

Whatever pathway the parent has chosen to take, he/she are not to be blamed. With an “invisible” handicap, by that I mean not physical, or one that is not necessarily perceived as a disorder by everyone, the parent is left to discover, evaluate and sometimes even attempt to treat on their own, of course only to grieve their failures when their humbly chosen methods do not work. It’s traumatising for the parent and for the child alike.

When Malik talks…

My brother Malik is a confirmed H1N1 case! Not that I’m too concerned, I swing in my theories of H1N1 between conspiracy to hoax, but I think we all agree it has been quite over-rated in the media. Malik is doing just fine; in fact he got rid of flu symptoms even before starting him on Tamiflu!

I love the way Malik views what’s around him, it’s either he reads too much into matters, or he reads way too little, I think it’s the latter. I was the one to break the news over the phone when the swab tested positive. I was acting all serious to tease him, I said “Malik, dear, you’ve been diagnosed with H1N1, you’ll be on home-bound, and you’re to wear a mask at all times. You’ll be starting your medication from today, two capsules daily, one in the morning, one at bedtime, before food. If symptoms worsen or if you feel your face is starting to look more like a pig, give me a call urgently!”. He said “Ok”… now that was a serious calm Ok, like I’ll do that…! He made me laugh; I felt bad and told him it was just a joke 😀

He’s recovering pretty well Alhamdlilah. It’s been almost a week and a half since the start of the symptoms, he calls me today right after Maghrib prayers tells me he had broke the rules “I went to the Masjid today, no doctor will be of use to me on judgment day and gave me this verse of the Holy Quran “يوم لا بنفع مال ولا بنون”  “The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail” (Surah26-Verse88)… I had to admire him but laughed deep inside!

Malik is quite a character, he’s turning all religious these past few years, well religious in his own ways, religious in talks and beards but not when it comes to women! Whoever said that all men are ”caged wolves” must be right. So Malik has decided he’s going to unleash his beard some 2 years ago, I was impressed he was committed, until one day he came back from the barber laughing his head off saying “Hey, check my beard, where has it gone?!” Apparently he’s shaved it off because his girlfriend (?!) does not like it!

I love it when he has his own special interests; it makes him feel productive, unique and special. He feels he stands out. His interests are language (he’s a fluent speaker of Arabic, English and Filipino -learnt through his assistant-) and religion. I must say they’re quite impressive for someone with intellectual difficulties. He quotes Quranic verses sometimes appropriately, mostly not! One day, my little cousin Maryam was saying Salam to us all, so he calmly shook her hands saying: يَا مَرْيَمُ لَقَدْ جِئْتِ شَيْئًا فَرِيًّا (27) يَا أُخْتَ هَارُونَ مَا كَانَ أَبُوكِ امْرَأَ سَوْءٍ وَمَا كَانَتْ أُمُّكِ بَغِيًّا (28) “O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! “O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!” (Surah19-Verse27-28)

Now this was TOTALLY inappropriate and unrelated, but I still am awe-inspired by the amount of learning he is capable of, specially with Quran verses, where quotation is by heart, word by word!  

I do not even know who is the source of this sudden religious upheaval, neither my mother (she is religious, but he doesn’t like to give and take a lot with her) nor my father (moderate, and happens to be his role-model) and definitely not my siblings, definitely not! To make matters even more surprising, his assistant who is a Filipino is a firm new-born Christian.

We’ve been to New Zealand for rehabilitation in 2003, the religious interest had started kicking in by then , so he goes to his physiotherapist and invites him to Islam just like that, without an introduction! I felt awkward; I did not want the therapist to feel we’ve asked him to do that! The therapist joked “Oh NOO, you get up at 4 am for prayers, I can never do that”. Malik went on to say “life is just a farm, you’ve got to work hard to harvest your fruits in heaven!” I was dumbfounded, deep inside I screamed “WHAT????! This is serious good talk, where the hell did you get it from, MALIK” Of course this caught the therapist off guard; he obviously did not see it coming. Blown away, his reply was “I’ll look into it”. Next I know, Malik has given the man an English translation of the Quran.

Now if you meet Malik for the first time, you’ll certainly have difficulty understanding his speech and that’s of course why I’ve become a speech therapist now! His speech is dysarthric, extremely slow, lethargic and slurred. All that accompanied by slow response rate, so you’ll ask a question, it’ll take him a second or two to respond. He’s also got some memory problems, he can repeat a question or a topic over a hundred times in one week, it can get ummm really difficult to take at times. With all these challenges, if you’re talking to him you’d expect a one-word answer and that is why when you hear him say something that makes perfect sense or words that are BIG like the farm-fruit-heaven thing, you’re prone to just sit there staggered and open your mouth wide wide open :O

Well, no wonder he’s made really good friends from all walks of life. Malik is a character of his own!

Sometimes I wonder what would have Malik been like now had the accident never happened. Of course the accident had stolen my 7-year old brother at the time, but it has certainly given us an all-new soul, a new character, it gave us a story, a Malik…

Read about Malik: here

Curing touch

 

 

 

Within the four walls of my clinic I must make a change, many times all it takes is a curing touch

Smart wee child.. Coward me….

“Your ONLY ultimate guide to dealing with kids’ nuisances”. I wish there was something as such, it would’ve made my life much easier and my career more tolerable.

I’ve been seeing this child for over a year, once a month in most occasions, weekly when the dad is off work. He’s a boy of almost 5 and I have not heard a single word come out of him ever! His parents assure me that he does speak or maybe only vocalise certain names at home. He could be labeled “selectively mute”. When I first saw him he was HYPERACTIVE (in capitals for extra stress on the word), moved up, down, right, left, in, out. He was virtually everywhere uncontrollably, I had to lock everything in cupboards if I want them safe and secure. After a few visits to the psychiatrist and being put on some drugs, he calmed down drastically. Call it the “secret pill”? Now he’s calm and sweet, but unresponsive and still mute 😦 but the good thing is that I can intervene at last.

So the mom comes in, I welcome her with the usual greetings and asked how he’s been doing and if she’s managed to carry on whatever language stimulation activities I provided. The answer is “ma 6aa3” in a strictly Omani accent, meaning “he did not want to”. My mind goes “I hate passiveness, I certainly gave you other alternatives”, but my mouth speaks “Oh ok, don’t you worry, we’ll find a way!”

I instruct the mother to leave the room so I can attempt to interact with the boy. This should be a huge step because he’s very clingy to the mother. I strictly instruct the mother not to come in, even if she hears him cry. The initial reaction was very much expected, screaming bloody murder, crying like he was starved off his childhood rights by this mean speech therapist who’s attempting to lure him into play without the presence of his mother.

I left him by the door, closely watching and attracting him to some play items displayed on a little table. He does not respond to me and the screaming increases, it’s now accompanied by aggressive behaviour of throwing stuff. “I will not give up on you little buddy, let’s come play” I say. Still chaos in the office.

I did not give up, until he used his weapon!!!! I wonder how on earth did he figure out that this was just my ultimate weakest point. He takes his pants off, sits on the floor in a comfortable posture and pretends to ehm… pretends to urinate!  …..and “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” my mind goes, I’ve had kids urinate and produce stool in my clinic before and it’s no fun, I promise! I calmly said “OK OK baba, here.. we’re getting mama in”. I open the door with feelings of defeat surrounding me.

The mom comes in and I calmly say “I think he needs to go to the toilet”. She asked him, again just “silence” is the answer, but she knew he didn’t actually want to urinate.

 Smart wee child… Coward me….

 

Why Speech Therapy?

I was invited to an international Speech and Language Therapy conference in Manchester in 2003 (? – if my memory serves me right). All invitees were asked to present  a short talk saying why they chose this field. For many, the answer to why speech therapy specifically was because it is a novel career thus promising a job immediately. For others, it was because it’s a noble career, very humane – as it involves compassion, sympathy (or I’d rather say empathy), mercy and kindness, thus very rewarding.. For me, this is what I had to say:        

——

 This particular question brings back to me some memory flashes of a tragedy that has befallen my brother (Malik) almost nine years ago. An intelligent and charming young boy at that time, my brother suffered a serious head injury after a road traffic accident which lead to massive complications in his speech abilities.

 Ever since, I made an important decision in life, and that is to dedicate the rest of my life in favor of those who are in need of a helping hand in order to be able to talk and express themselves just like everyone else.

 I hope my accomplishments will meet the expectations of my fellow citizens back home who are eagerly waiting for improvements in the field of Speech and Language Therapy!

 ——

 Dearest of all Malik,

At this very moment, I stand silent looking at your cheerful smile just in front of me. Your smile full of hope and bursting with optimism.

 Malik, will the day come when my words could immerse into your brain that has lost its glory since Friday the 25th of February 1994?! That’s a question we would never find an answer to, because God only knows.

 Malik I love you from the very deepest point in my heart.

 Malik