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Published: Friday June 13, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday June 13, 2014 MYT 10:09:03 AM

A better man for dealing with a child's disability

Letting him try: One of the hardest things Meor Amer Reza Meor Hazizi has learnt is to allow his son Adel to do things himself. - Photos RAYMOND OOI/The Star

Letting him try: One of the hardest things Meor Amer Reza Meor Hazizi has learnt is to allow his son Adel to do things himself. - Photos RAYMOND OOI/The Star

A father uprooted his family to give his son, born without a forearm, the best possible care.

WITHIN days of his son’s birth, Meor Amer Reza Meor Hazizi was applying for a scholarship to study in Britain because he needed to move his family there.

His son Mohd Adel Hariz had been born without his right forearm, and Meor was determined to give him the best care possible.

“When I saw him in the labour room, I didn’t know how to react. I was totally out of control and just started crying. My wife was a bit calmer but I could see that she was hurting inside. For the first few hours, I was a wreck.

“It was difficult but we managed to gather ourselves that day. We started seeing the situation as an opportunity to turn things around for the better,” recalled the 32-year-old telecommunications engineer.

He was nervous about questions from family and friends. But Meor and his wife Siti Hajar Mohd Yakop decided they’d be open about their son’s disability.

“I’ve heard of families who prefer to keep their child’s disability a secret, or shy away from the community. That feeling was the first thing I wanted to get rid of. It was one of the hardest things to do, but we managed.

“We sent out text messages announcing Adel’s arrival. We added that he was born with a disability, but he was a blessing nonetheless. That really helped us to open up from the start, and things got easier from there,” shared Meor who immediately started his research on how to help Adel.

Meor learnt about Reach Charity Ltd, a British association that provides contact and support for families with children with upper limb deficiencies.

“Right from the start, we wanted to know what we could and could not do for Adel. We were also hoping to find strength and support from other parents. When we found Reach, we decided we had to move the family to Britain no matter what,” said Meor who decided furthering his studies would be the best option.

“Every year, the application window for a King’s Scholarship is just two weeks. It so happened the application opened a few days after Adel was born. That made us believe that God had a plan for us. During the interview, I just spoke openly about my son and my motivations for furthering my studies. I would like to think that my love for my son was the reason I was given the scholarship,” recounted Meor who was one of 12 in Malaysia awarded the scholarship that year.

Letting him try: One of the hardest things Meor Amer Reza Meor Hazizi has learnt is to allow his son Adel to do things himself. - RAYMOND OOI/The Star
'Adel taught me that there’s always an opportunity to turn things around for the better. Without these challenges, we may never know where our true potential lies,' says Meor Amer Reza Meor Hazizi.

The all-expenses paid scholarship was just enough for the family of three to live on as Meor and his engineer wife put their careers on hold.

“We were in Britain for a year and the support we got from the other families was tremendous. Just by talking to them and seeing their children’s success stories and how they’ve been accepted by society really gave us the motivation to try harder to improve our situation,” said Meor.

Eligible for free healthcare services in Britain, the family worked with an occupational therapist and a prosthetist to help Adel.

Meor quickly learned that a child’s potential is not so much limited by his disabilities, but by his parent’s limitations for him.

“We learned that we shouldn’t be in denial over what Adel cannot do. The focus should be on what he can do, which is a lot of things. He may experience failures, but we shouldn’t discourage him from trying again. More importantly, we shouldn’t be doing things for him.

“It’s hard because sometimes we just can’t stand to see him struggle. But we just have to remind ourselves that a little hardship won’t hurt. In fact, it will only benefit him in the long run.

“He may have difficulties buttoning his shirt or carrying his dinner plate from the table to the sink, but otherwise, Adel is just like any other child – always running and climbing and jumping about,” said Meor who is also dad to three-year-old Mai Safiyya.

The father-of-two sees his son as a “teacher” – someone who has given him the push he needed to become a better person.

“What I love most about my son is his determination. Initially, we were apprehensive about how he was going to cope growing up. We kept asking ourselves: can he do this? Can he do that? But as he turned one, two, three and now four, he did the things we never thought he could.

“He can eat on his own using cutlery. If he needs to push the food onto his spoon he would do so with the help of his other arm. If he needs to peel a banana, he would use one leg to hold it and peel it with his other hand. He can even play games on the smartphone quite well.

“His perseverance has given us strength. Being a father to my son taught me things that I could’ve never learned on my own. Adel taught me that there’s always an opportunity to turn things around for the better. Without these challenges, we may never know where our true potential lies.”

Adel who is now four is attending kindergarten and has begun to realise that he is different from other children.

“At his kindergarten, there are some kids who stare at him; some run away because they are scared of him. Some will also ask: ‘Where are your hands?’ And he will say: ‘Here are my hands. See?’ He has come to me and said, ‘Papa has 10 fingers. I have six.’ He acknowledges his condition, but it has yet to affect him emotionally,” observed Meor.

The father is concerned about how the emotional challenges will affect Adel’s self-esteem as he grows older.

“He’s still very young now, but we know that the emotional challenges will come eventually. When that happens, we will be there for him and give him the motivation and strength to help him stand on his own.”

After they returned to Malaysia, Meor wrote The Greatest Gift: Unlocking The Hidden Treasures In Your Children to reach out to other families who are facing similar challenges.

“Adel has been a blessing to my family. I wrote the book because I wanted to show him that I valued him as a teacher,” Meor said. “But I also wanted to share some of the life lessons that I’ve learned. I’ve learned that there’s no challenge that you can’t handle.”

Find out more about Meor Amer Reza Meor Hazizi’s book at www.thegreatestgiftbook.net

Related story:

Dealing with autism: Doing what it takes

Tags / Keywords: Family & Community, Meor Amer Reza, Father

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