Friday, August 6, 2010

Experiencing Autism

Autism 1:
Dozens of mourners gathered at the Dallas Central Mosque in Richardson for a brief service for 2-year-old Faryaal Akhter, who died on Tuesday night 20th July, after being taken off life support.

The family buried her 5-year-old brother, Zain Akhter, on Monday, a day earlier.

Saiqa Akhter
Saiqa Akhter

As the Irving toddler was laid to rest on Thursday afternoon 22nd July, the mother, Saiqa Akhter, 30, accused of strangling her and her brother was on suicide watch at the Dallas County Jail.
She was being held in a jail unit with about eight other inmates also on suicide watch, said Dallas County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Kim Leach.
A guard is in the cell at all times, Leach said.

The mother was being held on a capital murder charge at the Dallas County Jail, where she was being monitored at all hours, according to a spokeswoman.
A Dallas County magistrate set Akhter's bail at US$1 million.
She is accused of killing the children at the family's Irving apartment on Monday evening, 19th July.

"She's obviously scared, and she's from a different culture and doesn't really understand our system very well," said Richard Franklin, one of two court-appointed attorneys representing Akhter who met with her  about noon Thursday 22nd.
He said they will request a psychiatric evaluation.

"We're going to wait and see what plays out," Franklin said. "There's a lot of information that doesn't look good, but by the same token, she seems to have mental health issues."

Franklin noted that in many cases in which mothers have killed their children, the mothers were having "some sort of mental stress that lessened their culpability, and some of them wound up in mental institutions instead of prison."

AP report that shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, Saiqa Akhter, a stay-at-home mother, called Irving police, said she had done "something terrible" to her children."
In flat tones and halting English, from the family's apartment in the 3300 block of Esters Road, just south of State Highway 183, she told the operator 911 that she had strangled her two young children because they were autistic.
She felt burdened by two autistic children and wanted "normal kids."

Officers who responded to the scene found both children on a bed in the family's second-floor apartment along with an antenna wire that police think was used to kill them.
When she called police, Akhter said she had used a wire on her children's necks and both had turned blue, according to an affidavit for a search and arrest warrant released by police Tuesday.
The mother was the only adult in the apartment at the time.

Akhter has declined all interview requests.

After Faryaal's burial at Restland Memorial Park, Saiqa Akhter's uncle Wasimul Haque said his niece had shown signs of psychological problems as early as 2007, though he did not elaborate.
He said the family thinks she needs psychiatric help.

"It looks like she had mental problems. I don't understand why she did it," Wasimul Haque, an uncle of Akhter, told The Dallas Morning News.

"I lost everything, my babies, but I don't want to lose my niece," Haque said. "She needs medical help right now."

"It is very, very tragic," "We are in the deep sadness." Haque said.

His niece had been depressed since the family moved into a new apartment in Irving.

Although family members had previously said Zain had autism (he had severe speech difficulties but had been improving with speech therapy), Haque did not think Faryaal was autistic too.
Nevertheless, she had health problems and was rushed to an emergency room with a respiratory issue in May 2009.

The family was the subject of a Child Protective Services investigation after leaving Zain home alone during that hospital visit.
Although agency spokeswoman said there were no signs of physical abuse, CPS worked with the family to get them help.

The dead children's father, Rashid Akhter, a computer technician, who, with his wife and children, emigrated from Pakistan, was struggling with the deaths.
He was so distraught that he's been unable to talk.

"He's totally broke," Haque said. "We are trying to support him. It is really a hard time for us. You can't imagine. I can't explain inside what's happening."


Autism 2:
6-year old Affan would only be released from his mother's firm hold after the school bell rang and other students were assembling to line up before class begins.
Then, his mother would quickly disappear.

Everyday, Affan would cry his heart out during assembly, when he's left with no mother, but friends.

The scene kept repeating itself everyday until mid-year when I had the chance to sit with the mother, to talk about...

Yes, she has not one, but two autistic children.
8-year old Fahim had attended primary school. The two children's unusual social behaviour had made the mother developed a very low self-esteem, although her husband is a high ranking officer drawing a very good salary.

She would always running away from other parents who were also sending their children to school.

When she happened to arrive early, she would find a spot where she and her children were less noticed.


When she came for the mid-year assessment report, I had signaled to her that I would see her last, and she willingly agreed.

The moment she sat facing me, the young mother in her 20s burst out, crying her heart out.

She felt ashamed.
She had given her parents and parents-in-law two autistic grandchildren with social impairments - abnormal of social interactions and communication, with distinct odd social approaches.

She's too stressed out having two autistic offspring and having to look after them by herself.
She's now, like her children, were difficult to make, to trust and to maintain friendships.
Living in the environment, it proved to her that it's difficult for those with autism.
Then, there's frequent and intense loneliness and 'unheard whisper' despite with the two-in-tow, who had formed inseparable attachment with her.  
It's a great lifetime burden she had to carry on her shoulders.

She 'knew' the daily cries, the abnormal aggressiveness, violence and tantrums shown by her children had invited 'uninvited gossips and talks' among parents and students' resentment.

What's so great about having much money, when much more money is needed for theraphy - speech for basic language skills and another, for their mental development.
People see her status, but the impaired perception of people fail to see what she went through.


When enough was said and she had thrash her heart out, her feeling and suffering from unheard were relieved.

Then, I ask about 'any outsider?' in her house.
Yes, She has had many experiences of being urged, sometimes forcefully urged, and wanting to throw the two children down from her flat.
Occasionally the children, Affan especially, would babble, 'there's people' at the door or at the windows.

On occasions when her husband came home, out of the jungle especially, she would sense, eerie feeling with goosepimple, of another 'being' entering the house, although the man did not feel anything or any difference.

He love his children, he love his wife, he love his family and he love his job...

***She had often invited me over to her house. I have yet to fulfill her invitation.
***Changes Made 

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