When we had our children in the Shaker Heights schools, and specifically Benjamin in the special education program there, we were invited to join the Shaker Heights Special Education PTO by Holly Palda, the parent advocate hired by the schools. Holly has a great knack for connecting parents to each other. She observes the interests and concerns of the parents and puts them in touch with each other. One of the people she put me in touch with was Mariam Hasham Rashwan, the mother of Salma. Mariam and her family moved here to Cleveland from Ismailia, Egypt, near the Suez canal. Her husband is a doctor, and she currently has 4 children, the second oldest being Salma, who is now 15 years old. At the time, Mariam was looking for supports and advice in how to deal with both the school special education system, and how to work with Salma on her communication and behavioral issues, both very important issues – and very interconnected - for people who have autism challenges and their families. We got to know each other there, and at the Uqba Masjid in Cleveland, where Todd and I knew several other families from the middle east/Africa. The family left for Florida in 2010 or so, and I didn’t hear from her until last Sunday, when she came back to visit for a wedding, and stopped into see me! As we caught up with each other’s stories during the afternoon it occurred to me that all her major life decisions and directions had been spurred on, and guided by her love for Salma, who is still non-verbal. This strong drive and motive is a familiar theme for parents of children with disabilities. I hearken back to all that Dorothy Gauchat went through to make life worth living for Todd.
Mariam and Salma's story will be continued in Mariam's own words (translated from Arabic) Mariam writes prolifically about Salma on Facebook, and remains an inspiration to thousands of followers there.