"Clara is my only child. My everything. My pregnancy was perfect and Clara was born a super calm, beautiful and healthy baby. My husband and I could not have dreamed of anything better.
"My husband always said that Clara has the most beautiful black eyes and he could see that she was more than special and would somehow make a huge difference in people's lives, but he did not know why. I never really paid much attention to that; every parent believes their own child has something special.
“When Clara was 18 months we noticed that she was not really answering to her name or giving us eye contact as she should. We spoke to her paediatric doctor, who could not see anything wrong, and her nursery also didn’t think she was different from any of the other kids. After hearing tests also turned out to be problem-free, we had an assessment done by a neuropaediatric doctor, from whom we learnt that Clara was on the autism spectrum. “My world completely collapsed. I was scared, sad and lost. I had no idea what to expect or how to help my daughter. ‘What did I do wrong during my pregnancy?’ I asked myself. “We decided to go to the US to have a second opinion from a specialist, and the diagnosis was confirmed just by looking at Clara’s behaviours. We realised then that we had to educate ourselves in order to help our daughter. We wanted Clara to be able to make friends, to talk and to be accepted into society. We decided to drop all our old expectations about her future – it was no longer a matter of whether she would go to the best university or whether she would be the smartest one in her classroom. We just wanted our princess to be happy and independent.
“My husband and I started reading and contacting as many people as we could to learn about autism. Back in Dubai, we started interviewing and contacting professionals to help us, which was such a tiring task - how could we know who to trust? We decided we needed to have a team of professionals. After many days of visiting centres in Dubai and researching online, we met Mrs Nipa Bhupatani from the Applied Behavioural Training Institute, which supports parents who’ve just got the diagnosis and starts early intervention. From the beginning we felt a wonderful connection with her and her team and could see how passionate they are. Clara was two years and five months when she started ABA – Applied Behaviour Analysis – five hours a day, along with speech therapy and occupational therapy. Every single achievement was celebrated and shared, and we were always looking for more ways in order to support our angel.
“Clara is verbal and super creative, but we wanted to prepare her to go to a mainstream school where she could be among neuro-typical kids. Ready for the assessments of the super-demanding schools of Dubai, we were prepared to receive many rejections, but then it happened: one of the happiest days of our lives, which I will never forget. We visited many schools across Dubai, but the one that gave us the best impression and that we had the strongest intuition about called, and gave us a positive response! I almost could not believe what I was hearing. Clara was being accepted into a mainstream British school – wow!
“Today, Clara is in her second year at school. She has so many friends and is loved by her little classmates and their parents, and she has a whole community supporting her. I must say I’ve never met such lovely parents and kids as those at her school. I feel that we are more than blessed. I am so thankful to the UAE, to my friends and to every parent we’ve met along our journey. “Clara is now five years old and from the first year when she started her therapies, my husband and I agreed that we would do anything we could to support other parents who are going through the difficulties we went through and to bring awareness to the community. We want to help other parents to face this difficult time of their lives and prove to them that an autistic kid has so much to teach us and so much love to spread. They deserve to feel that their parents trust they are capable and can do anything in this world. All they need is patience and support, as they have their own time and ways of learning. No judgments, no regrets, no sorrows!
What motherhood means to me
“I do not see myself as different from any other mother. We all have different challenges in our lives. Some might be harder than others but, at the end of the day, we all fight to get the best for our kids. With Clara I have learnt to see things from a different perspective. I worry less and enjoy life more. I’ve learnt that it does not matter how ‘perfect’ your kid is; having a neuro-typical kid does not give you a ‘headache-free ticket’. Nothing in life is perfect! And I’ve learnt how to live one day at a time. “If I could say something to a mother who just got a diagnosis, I would say that everything will fall in place and do not concentrate on the problems that you will face or on your kid’s disability. Celebrate and be happy and grateful for any little achievement. Do not put too much pressure on your shoulders, nor on your kid’s. Never forget your child needs you to be well so that he or she can succeed. I do have my moments where I feel weak and not good enough for my family. It’s normal as long as you move on and find ways to dedicate time for yourself and for your husband. You deserve the best!”
Finding autism support in the UAE
Bianca says she found the following resources and places very useful:
Mrs Nipa Bhupani and her team:
Applied & Behavioral Training Institute
Dubai 04 8818036
Horizon British School
Autism Mom Dubai