The Freedom to Play, to Learn, to Smile

In some places around Pakistan, children with intellectual disabilities are not valued the way they should be valued. For one family, this prejudice led them to feel ashamed of their two sons with intellectual disabilities.

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Waheed and Zia, here with their parents and younger brother, are getting outside more and learning to play ball after Special Olympics volunteers paid their family an encouraging visit. 

To Keep Them Safe

The parents of two brothers with intellectual disabilities say prejudice against people with disabilities in their culture led them to feel ashamed of their two sons. The boys' mother and father also did not know how to keep the boys safe when they went to work. They kept them chained – chained literally and in so many other ways -- at home so the children would not be seen and mistreated.

The two brothers, Waheed and Zia, stayed chained at home, even as they grew into young men. This went on for 10 years. Some Special Olympics Pakistan volunteers found out about this situation and paid the family a visit.


Out Into the World

The Special Olympics volunteers talked to the parents and completely understood the pressures the family had endured; they were able to talk to the family and encourage them. Since then, Special Olympics volunteers have been urging the parents to bring these young men – now ages 19 and 22 -- out into the world.

The family had a third son with intellectual disabilities who had been able to attend school and eventually became involved in Special Olympics activities. "We have been trying to bring some positivity to the young men’s lives by providing them with sports items and other things to help keep them busy," says Tehmina Azim, a Special Olympics Family Support Network volunteer and leader. "The goal is to give these young men a positive path to follow that will help them in their future life."

She adds, "This fight against society’s prejudices is not happening only in Pakistan -- it is being done worldwide. The goal is to change the mindsets of the people by raising awareness about the gifts and talents of people with intellectual disabilities. This is the mission of Special Olympics."

Volunteers are also helping the young men learn to groom themselves and give them access to medical and dental screenings through the Healthy Athletes program.

Skills and Abilities

The whole family has now been able to attend a Family Support Network event held by Special Olympics Pakistan. The young men were very happy, especially after they were taken to the grounds and allowed to run around and play a ball game. They were given a bat and ball as gifts.

A month later, a Family Support Network coordinator visited them at their home. They recognized her and were happy to see her. The mother said that the activities and sports equipment have helped the brothers stay busy. Their throwing skills have also improved and they are also getting outside more.

The parents have been inspired to get more involved in determining their children’s future. They recently traveled two days to attend a Special Olympics family summit in Karachi, where they met other families who have experienced the same kinds of struggles with finding acceptance and activities for their children.

"They are now very much motivated to bring in their children and involve them in Special Olympics," says Tehmina. The parents are also feeling reassured about their sons’ skills and abilities. In the words of Tehmina Azim, "This is what life is all about: to share joy and happiness."

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