Changing Lives of Autistic Children in Urban Communities
Nadine Wright-Arbubakrr, Founder & President of Nassan's Place, joins Steve Adubato to describe the challenges she has faced as a mother of a son with special needs and to share how her son, Nassan, inspired her to create programs for kids with autism in urban communities.
"Hi, Steve Adubato, coming to you from the North Ward Center in Newark, New Jersey. We were talking about autism. The title of this series, Autism: A Different Way of Thinking. We are pleased to be joined by Nadine Wright-Arbubakrr. Right. Who is the Founder and President of Nassan's Place. Tell everyone who Nassan is and why he matters so much. Nassan is my very big baby boy. He's 14 years old, 6'4". He's nonverbal, and he is one of the sweetest, most special, most wonderful little big guys in the whole wide world. And he's mine. And... He's 14 now? He's 14, and he has autism. When did you, or did you first sense, that Nassan might have autism? I called out his name one day when he was about 18-19 months, and he didn't respond. Nassan was saying, "Mama, bye-bye, daddy," and he was waving, and then all of a sudden, it stopped. But one day I called out his name, and he didn't respond. And he was right next to me. And I said, "Nassan? Nassan?" And he didn't. The Elmo commercial came on, and he turned to look. And I was like, "What? Maybe there's something wrong with his hearing?" But he heard that. So what I did is I tested it to see if it was his hearing. I laid him on the bed. I DVR'd the commercial. The Elmo commercial. And I called out his name. I'll never forget that day. I laid him down, and he didn't respond. As soon as I put on the DVR and the Elmo commercial came up, he jumped up. So I said, "This is strange." But then I noticed the flapping of the hands. And then he started running back and forth repetitiously. And I couldn't understand what it was. And I started to Google it. And when I saw the word "autism" come up, I was like, "No, it can't be that. Maybe it's all in my mind?" But I couldn't ignore the signs. So I did talk to the pediatrician, and at that pediatrician, I said, "Something's not right." You know. "He's not doing what my daughter's did." I had three other children prior to him. "Well boys develop differently. They develop slower than girls." You know. I was like, "No, something's not right." So we had his testing... his hearing tested. It wasn't until I put him into a daycare setting in East Orange. And the very first day... How old then? He was about maybe 22 months at that time. Because I knew something was wrong. But no one could tell me... You knew at 18 months? I knew. I knew..."