Dubai: No two mums can be alike. Yet, if there’s one thing that Dubai-based Rosy Ahmed and Amani Mustafa share, it is the fact that their daughters Hana Ahmed, 26 and Noor Elakhdar, 20, are both Down Syndrome adults, their day-to-day triumphs defining many commonalities for them.
Proud parents both, Rosy, a British national of Bangladeshi origin and Amani, an Egyptian, can’t wait for November 19, when their daughters, along with some 40 youth of determination, will take the stage at FAME, an annual event in Dubai, to showcase their special talent in fashion, art, music and entertainment.
But harnessing all that latent talent, the super mums will tell you, has not been easy. They have come a long way since they first discovered that Hana and Noor needed more attention than their other children, with each day bringing with it its own share of pain, patience -- and pride.
“I’ve literally grown with Hana, learning new things every day as she never ceases to surprise us,” says Rosy, the brain behind FAME.
Known as the “Apple Queen” at home, Hana spends good time on her gadgets, her watch in particular, for which she has a strap of every colour. As the family lets on, they are all gifts she cherishes deeply.
Never mind her typical 8am-to-10pm day, where she packs in everything from her studies and therapies to activities like sports, mandala art, Bollywood dance, Korean drama, a mix of music and sports, it’s the days that spring the pleasant surprises that have a resounding recall.
Rosy narrates how as a five year old, Hana, who did her early schooling in the UK, was being taught Makaton, a tool that largely uses signs to enable people of determination to communicate. “But as she picked up those signs and began to employ them to communicate with us, I insisted the family, including her siblings (an older brother and sister) talk to her with words. Then one fine day, she started replying to us in mono syllables. By the time she was eight or nine, she dropped Makaton altogether.”
What’s more, Hana, who up until recently, could manage five-six words in one go, now talks – and writes - in full sentences. She can read a book, the first revelation occurring when she read a full line from a Ladybird book at school. She has also received the Ascentis Entry Lavel Award in Independent Living (Entry 2) from the Nescot College in the UK.
The feeling when any such breakthrough comes about is priceless, says Rosy, who is amazed at how her daughter “tries and tries and tries” even as she herself “never gives up”.
“Our days are made of these,” she says, adding that the road to success is invariably slow, but sure.
It’s the same story with Amani and Noor, who in addition to Down Syndrome has autistic features. Passionate about art, colours and movements, all of which are reflected through her favourite activities, Noor is an excellent swimmer, cyclist, basketball player, runner, football player, mountain climber, model and dancer.
“She has been dancing since she was eight as she suffered from language difficulties and would express her feelings by drawing and dancing,” recounts Amani.
“She calls herself ‘Nunu Jackson’ as she is a huge fan of Michael Jackson and has taught herself all his moves.”
Amani, who has two boys older than Noor, counts the long list of Noor’s creative pursuits as a huge blessing because she started out with zero expectation from her special child. “That has been my biggest learning during all these years with Noor – to just work hard with no expectation. The results will follow.”
It is to her credit that Noor can manage much of her 7am-9.30pm day without her shadowing her. But she can see her daughter can do with a more active social life. “So you see, the effort can never stop,” she says.
Both Amani and Rosy agree that special children require a constant push to tap and build on their potential. “Earlier, Hana would always paint in black. I later learnt that it conveyed her frustration. Whether they are drawing, singing or dancing, special children are always trying to tell us something,” explains Rosy.
Convinced about the premise, she even launched Talent Hub this year, a platform to help youth with special educational needs discover and nurture their talents in a fun and sociable setting.
“Our mission is to provide a creative, engaging and safe space for participants to develop their skills and feel confident. Inclusion is crucial; we want to promote better integration into the community, enabling people of determination to participate in all spheres of life,” she adds.
Needless to say, each day that passes is a step towards this end.