Words by Naz Rahman

Raising a younger brother diagnosed with autism has shaped how I function day-to-day. Growing up in the South Asian community, we as a family quickly discovered how taboo the topic of disability truly is. It was heartbreaking to experience how differently family and friends treated my brother upon his diagnosis. It has taken years of patiently educating those around us to finally establish a safe circle of family friends who love and respect my brother for who he is.

With that same approach, I use my social media platform to raise awareness about autism to reach as many South Asian families who may also be on a similar journey. Our family of four living in Calgary is currently following social distancing orders. My brother, Ridwan, regularly attends a day program for adults with special needs called “Eric’s House.” Due to COVID-19, we have decided to keep Ridwan home until the situation is under control. While staying at home, Eric’s House regularly does Instagram Lives where they do music sing-alongs, which Ridwan enjoys watching. Lives and Zoom calls have been excellent access from home tools for us to connect Ridwan to his friends and his various community services. For us, access from home enables everyone to connect from the comfort of their homes. Internet access is critical for this.

Ridwan sitting on a couch and smiling at the camera. He is holding boxes of Betty Crocker baking mixes. One hand has a brownie mix and the other a cake mix.
Ridwan lying down on the couch with the laptop on front of him

Our biggest challenge during this pandemic has been getting physical exercise for Ridwan. Like many, he spends several hours on his devices, watching cartoons to pass the time. Ridwan highly depends on interactive-social settings like bowling or swimming to engage him. We are trying to make the best of this situation by routinely going on walks in our community.

Although this pandemic has been challenging to reset how we operate daily, one positive aspect has been allowing us to spend a lot of time as a family during our holy month of Ramadan. We are cooking meals, praying and watching shows together regularly. This wouldn’t have been possible with our usual busy schedules.

A selfie of Naz and her brother Ridwan during one of their outdoor walks. It is a beautiful day with blue skies and Naz is smiling.

Naz Rahman is a beauty and lifestyle content creator based in Calgary, Alberta. She is an autism advocate and has been invited to speak at conferences on understanding autism. She was a prominent leader at Youth Central, running Islamic programs for young children, and was the youngest employee hired by the Ability Society. Her work and contributions have received several recognitions from the local community including Outstanding Youth Philanthropist in 2014. Follow her on Instagram at @miniinaaz.

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#AccessFromHome Stories features people from the disability community and advocates and lived experiences at home during COVID-19. #AccessFromHome Stories is made possible by our Supporting Partners Government of Canada and CIBC.