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Mahad and Zain outside.
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Going with the flow, thanks to hospital support

When Mahad was three years old, he and his mom, Anny, came to Holland Bloorview for the first time following an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis.

“I was apprehensive in the beginning, but the positive attitude and compassion of the doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and social workers was very helpful,” remembers Anny. “The people at Holland Bloorview have helped me a lot in our journey.”

Through the hospital’s programs and services, along with access to government funding, Anny was able to ensure that Mahad could succeed.

Holland Bloorview was also there when Mahad’s younger brother, Zain, was diagnosed with ASD.

“Whatever I faced with Mahad, I faced a new set of experiences with Zain. Even though they are brothers and they are both on the spectrum, they are completely different people,” says Anny.

These days, 11-year-old Mahad is an aspiring astronaut, passionately interested in time travel, space and the multiverse. On the flip side, nine-year-old Zain loves playing outside, exploring new parks and mapping out the routes to all of his favourite places on Google Maps.

After both boys’ diagnoses, Anny and her husband initially felt some grief thinking about the challenges that would lie ahead. But thanks to resources at Holland Bloorview, the family learned to embrace their differences and cherish every milestone.

“When Mahad and Zain were newly diagnosed, I attended many parent workshops to better understand how to help them,” says Anny.

“Now I have a lot of knowledge and confidence to advocate for my children.  And along the way, I found like-minded friends who also have kids on the autism spectrum, and they have become a support system. Plus the boys always look forward to their visits to Holland Bloorview every week.”

While Anny spends her time informing and empowering herself through said workshops, the boys always look forward to playing in the ball pit at the Ronald McDonald playroom. Mahad and Zain also participate in research studies, join programs like Facing Your Fears—which helps kids with autism spectrum disorder manage their anxiety—and even receive dental services at hospital.

“With the help of amazing dentists and staff, my kids learned that teeth cleaning is nothing to be scared of,” Anny adds cheerfully.

Another thing the boy have learned to face is learning to swim. In fact, one of the family’s fondest memories at Holland Bloorview is the first time the brothers jumped in the Snoezelen pool.

“The happiness—especially for Zain, who was initially scared of the water—was the best. And the milestones that Mahad achieved when he was learning how to swim were amazing,” says Anny.

And while Anny can’t be sure of what the future will hold, she knows it will involve Holland Bloorview.

“Autism is kind of like a river that flows, sometimes it's peaceful and sometimes it's not so peaceful. Thanks to Holland Bloorview, now I go with the flow,” says Anny.

“The best thing any parent with kids on the spectrum can do is to provide them with all the support in the present, so they can succeed to the best of their abilities in the future. And that's what I'm trying to do.”

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