‘Autism is not a disability,’ says mother of Emirati piano prodigy

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An Emirati woman has spoken about how she wants to help turn the tide of opinion on autism through the story of her son Ahmed who went from a troubled child to a piano prodigy.

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Ahmed al-Mousawi attracted the concern of teachers as a young child and was even kicked out of a United Arab Emirates nursery that was afraid he would ruin the reputation of the school.

He was soon afterwards diagnosed with autism, and as his mother Eiman learnt more about the condition, she discovered that Ahmed had a rare musical talent.

Although he struggled with verbal communication, Ahmed could communicate his feelings by playing the piano.

He could even identify which musical notes were being played just by ear – a rare skill known as perfect pitch.

“I really want to be able to educate the whole world about autism, and I really want [people] to stop looking at autism as a disability, because it’s not,” his mother told Al Arabiya English ahead of World Autism Month this month.

“Some people used to tell me: ‘Oh my god, he plays piano, subhanallah. God took something from him and gave him something else.’”

“And then I replied: ‘God never took something from him. God added to him something special that other children don’t have.’”

After some training, 12-year-old Ahmed is now performing classical music in some of the most respected venues in the country, including Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed’s palace.

He has even begun composing his own pieces, and is branching out into writing jazz and hip-hop songs.

Some autistic people, despite struggling with verbal communication, are known to develop obsessive fixations in certain areas.

For Ahmed, his love of the piano keeps him playing until the early hours of the morning, and playing until his fingers are blue and swollen, his mother said.

“If I come to him, I say: ‘Ahmed, khalas, it's sleeping time, you have school tomorrow.’ He says: ‘Please mama, please, I need this, I need to play only just a minute.’”

And the obsessive practice is paying off for the young musician, who has won awards in the UAE and wider GCC for his performances.

While it was a struggle for Eiman to come to terms with Ahmed’s diagnosis more than ten years ago, she hopes that things are changing now for people with autism in the UAE.

One of her efforts to help raise awareness about autism was to write a book about her experience with Ahmed, called ‘Show Me the World Through Your Eyes.’

It was published in 2019 in Arabic, and an English translation is due to be published soon.

As a message to the public for Autism Awareness Month this month, Eiman said: “I don’t want them to feel pity for the children. They should appreciate their talents. They have a lot to give, but they need just a little understanding.”

Read more:

Autism Awareness Week: ‘Far-reaching lack of awareness remains’, say UAE experts

Dubai-based experts debunk ADHD, Autism myths and misconceptions

Dubai's iconic Burj Al Arab lights in blue for Autism Awareness Day

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