Alishba's Plight

I know my patterns

but I don't know my words, mom.

I know what to add in my tea

but I forgot to heat it up, mom.

I know I'm thirteen

but I can't act my age, mom.

I can create, I can draw,

but I really can't read mom.

I know tuition centers are the norm,

but I need YOUR help, mom.

I want to learn, play and make friends,

but my behavior wasn't accepted in special school, mom.

I was improving,

I was learning,

I was understanding,

but it all fell apart.

You chose two month long family weddings over my therapy, mom.

-- --

When I met Alishba*, she was wrapped up in layers of clothes (since the temperature had dropped below ten degrees Celsius after the rain in Lahore). She walked with a spring in her step, and didn't need help sitting in the chair in front of her psychologist, but she just sat with her mouth half open; waiting to be told what to do next. We asked her to write her name, she wrote down jumbled up alphabets in a pattern. She created patterns; it was her forte.

I was told that she wasn't like this before. I was told that she had started to take initiatives now and had better self-esteem. She was getting better. But, the parents were bent on sending her to tuition centers and then, enrolling her in a class with her age-mates. That's when the downward spiral started for her. For months, her mother had stopped bringing her for occupational, structural and speech therapies. Now she was back.​

Alishba has Global Developmental Delay and it took her mother thirteen years to understand the gravity of the situation. And, yet, she was coming in with Alishba for her therapy sessions after a full two-months break- just so she could attend family weddings.

This poem is not only Alishba's plight but that of many other children who are victims of parental denial; who will teach the parents now?

*Alisbha's real name has not been used to ensure confidentiality.


About the Author​

​​​​​​​Lubaina is a graduate of the Aga Khan University MBBS Class of 2018. She is an aspiring pediatrician who is currently doing research at the university of Virginia focused on the computational modelling of the gut for understanding enteropathies. She is also a medical illustrator and painter who, if not stuck in front of a canvas, is at the basketball court because of her love for the game.