The COVID-19 crisis hovers over the globe today like a haze of smog, and with it, whatever concepts of “normalcy” we once held have now been completely distorted. The foreseeable future of school, playdates, and extracurricular activities are confined to the household. With schools closed and non-essential activities at a halt, parents have been scrambling to hone their skills in becoming teachers and “techies”, cleaners and cooks, at the beck and call of their families around the clock.
Every Tuesday, Aaliya Jaffer walks into the principal’s office of the As-Sadiq Islamic School and greets the administrative staff with a cheerful smile and “Salaam alaykum”. She signs herself in and gets ready for a full day at school volunteering with the grade 3 teacher and her students.
On April 4th, a flag raising ceremony to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day was held at Ottawa City Hall. Sara Siddiqi, a grade twelve student at Sir Wilfred Laurier Secondary School, delivered a speech at the event. Sarah’s brother, Nasir, was diagnosed with autism when he was three and a half years old and Sarah was seven. It was then that her journey to raise awareness about autism began.
Noor Siddiqi, 19, and Sara Siddiqi, 15, have a younger brother who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was four. “It has been a long journey for my whole family,” Sara shared. But both sisters are quick to point out that despite the challenges that have come with taking care of a sibling with autism, the experience has enriched their lives.
Last year, the sisters drew the attention of local media when they organized a table at their school, Gloucester High School, to raise awareness about autism on April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day. With items donated by Autism Ontario, the governmental organization aimed at supporting those with autism, the sisters spoke to their fellow students about the disorder and shared their own story of living with a sibling with autism.