DUBAI: A Dubai-based Pakistani mother told Arab News on Tuesday that she wanted her 6-year-old autistic child to run 100 kilometers to raise awareness about the significance of sports for special needs children.
Qurratulain Jawad shared her plan with people through a social media post earlier this month, asking community members to join her son, Suleman Jawad, in running for the cause. What she did not anticipate, however, was the overwhelming response to her call while scribbling the message.
“Suleman is six, he is autistic and non-conversational,” she told Arab News, adding that he enjoyed running around. “He also has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). During the recent lockdown, this activity was not possible for him and it affected him a lot.”
As soon as the lockdown was over, Suleman started running again.
“This time he ran so much that I thought I should set a goal for him to achieve since he is always happy when we praise him after an achievement. So I set a target for him to run 100 kilometers over the next five weeks,” she added.
Jawad spoke to Suleman’s coach, Hollie Murphy, the founder of Heroes of Hope, a non-for-profit organization that develops sports programs for children with special needs, of which Suleman is part.
“Hollie thought it was a great idea and it would also motivate other parents. That’s when I asked other community members also to accompany Suleman,” she continued.
The idea had to be dropped later since over 100 people volunteered to run alongside Suleman.
“I was not expecting such a huge response, and we could not hold such gatherings during the pandemic due to social distancing requirements,” she said, adding that Suleman also developed a degree of anxiety while meeting new people.
#WATCH: Dubai-based Pakistani mother tells #ArabNewsPK that she wants her 6-year-old autistic child to run 100 kilometers to raise awareness about the significance of #sports for special needs #children. || #AutismAwareness
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— Arab News Pakistan (@arabnewspk) July 28, 2020
The young boy has already covered 50 kilometers since he first set out to meet the target on July 12, making his mother believe that he is likely to meet the goal ahead of the deadline.
He runs on Kite Beach on Sundays, Marina Walk on Thursdays, and Dubai Sports City Sports Park on Mondays.
Suleman sometimes runs about two kilometers and other times covers up to five, often stopping along the way if something catches his attention.
His mother also accompanies him with his water bottle.
“Since he can’t talk, I can only sense when he needs to re-hydrate and slow down,” she said.
Running with him are two to three “buddies” from Heroes of Hope who often nudge him and physically remind him to run. “We are using sports in particular to bring the community together, create more awareness and, in general, improve the quality of life for people of determination,” said Murphy who founded the group in 2013.
“We embrace all of them for who they are … We don’t see children for their autism or Down’s Syndrome; we just see them as our athletes,” she said.
Murphy recalled meeting Suleman in December 2019.
“The first time he came for a run in open air, it was a very overwhelming experience for him, but we asked his mum to keep bringing him so he could be familiarized with everything,” she said.
She also informed that Suleman had transformed into a completely different child since the time he came for the first run.
“For a 6-year-old to complete a 100-kilometer run is difficult. For a 6-year-old with autism, to complete 100 kilometers is almost like a mission impossible. Yet, he is making the target more achievable everyday,” Murphy said.
According to Jawad, running has channeled Suleman’s energy and calmed him down. “I hope other parents are motivated by this challenge and manage to find out what works best for their child,” she said.