Faria’s dedication to making a difference stems from her personal journey as a mother of a 15-year-old daughter, Afiyah, who faces the challenges of Severe Autism, ADHD, Severe Learning Disability, and epilepsy.
This pioneering social enterprise aims not only to raise awareness about autism but also to equip individuals, parents, carers, and professionals with valuable tools and techniques to positively engage with autistic children and adults.
The Autism Foundation
We spoke to Faria Arsh’s about the foundation and her plans for the future.
She is a single mum from Sale with two daughters, one of whom, 15-year-old Afiyah, has severe autism.
After she was born, Faria trained as a specialist assistant and has been working in special schools ever since.
Speaking to I Love MCR, Faria said: ” I have a daughter who is severely autistic and as a parent, I know how difficult it is to access any support.
“Either we are on the waiting list for a long time and when finally, our turn comes, we don’t get the answers as the support out there isn’t child/parent-centred.
“Earlier this year, I wrote a book called ‘Toilet Training for Autistic & SEND Children and Adults’.
“This is a real-life story of how I toilet-trained my daughter Afiyah when she was 9 years old in 2017.
“It’s a step-by-step guide and that’s what parents need.
“When I was toilet training my daughter, I got no support from doctors, schools and local authorities.
“I took matters into my own hands and created a method.
“The inspiration behind Autism Foundation is the book and the workshops I run alongside it.
“Since the launch of the book in March 2023, I have held several in-person and online workshops for people around the UK and the world.
“Then I was asked to start doing Autism specific workshops which have also been a huge success.
“Looking at the demand and the need for such support not just in the UK but around the world, I decided to start a Social Enterprise so that I can reach a wider group of people all over the world.”
Changing Perspectives on Autism
Raising Afiyah has profoundly altered Faria Arsh’s outlook on autism and its multifaceted challenges.
Over the years, Faria’s perspective on autism has evolved, mirroring Afiyah’s growth and changing needs.
She readily admits that each day brings its share of challenges, yet amid those challenges, she has discovered an unshakable wellspring of joy in Afiyah’s presence.
Afiyah’s unique perspective and her ability to find happiness in the simplest of things have illuminated Faria’s world.
This newfound positivity and resilience are testaments to the transformative power of love and the profound impact a child with autism can have on a parent’s perspective.
The Key Goals of the Autism Foundation
The Autism Foundation has set some big goals, wanting to help everyone around the world who has a child with autism or learning needs.
Faria said: “I know that the budgets are stretched in every school and the NHS, and this has left people with autism/disability and their families in crisis.
“This is where the Autism Foundation comes into play.
“We don’t have referral criteria and we don’t need your child to have a diagnosis.
“We will help you by providing hands-on training so that you are equipped to deal with the challenges in a positive manner. Autism Foundation also provides Parent Advocacy Services so that we can help those families who are struggling to advocate for their loved ones.
“When you are fighting for your child’s rights, you need a helping hand to guide you so that you can access the right support for your child.
“We aim to not just train parents but to also support professionals so that they can deal with the challenges Autism and other disabilities bring.”
What does the Autism Foundation Offer?
At this moment in time, the Autism Foundation has three services.
- Toilet Training Workshops
- Understanding Autism and Dealing with Behavioural Challenges Workshops.
- Parent Advocacy Services.
Their Workshops are CPD-certified and are appropriate for parents, carers and professionals too.
Looking forward, they will be branching out into workshops that are based on communication, but the Autism Foundation aims to provide whatever is needed.
Challenges and Rewards
In the journey of caring for her daughter Afiyah, Faria Arsh has confronted a multitude of challenges, but one that stands out is the often hurtful and inconsiderate comments from others regarding Afiyah’s needs and her role as a parent.
Each day presents unique challenges for her, and her sources of happiness are few and precious.
The most formidable challenges, however, arise when others fail to understand Afiyah’s unique needs and resort to hurtful remarks.
Faria recounts instances where individuals have suggested that Afiyah should be placed in full-time residential care.
These comments, although meant to offer solutions, are deeply hurtful.
They imply that Afiyah’s condition somehow diminishes her right to the same care and love that every human being deserves.
As a mother, hearing such suggestions about her 15-year-old daughter is nothing short of heartbreaking.
Faria also faces comments that insinuate that Afiyah’s inability to speak for herself and her different way of understanding the world should relegate her to a different category, where her needs are overlooked.
But Faria’s unyielding spirit and unwavering love for Afiyah have enabled her to overcome these challenges with determination.
She firmly believes that Afiyah’s unique needs should never be ignored or belittled. While the daily challenges of autism are undeniable, it is the hurtful comments and societal stigma that have proven to be among the most difficult obstacles for Faria to surmount.
Yet, she continues to persevere, fueled by her boundless love for her daughter and her commitment to raising awareness and understanding about autism and the rights of every individual, regardless of their abilities.
However, Faria says that it can sometimes be incredibly rewarding.
She said: “Everything and I mean everything about being Afiyah’s mother is rewarding.
“Afiyha helps to keep me grounded and appreciate the small things in life.
“Afiyah loves her sensory play and often she wants to play with oats in our house.
“This keeps her occupied and it also meets her sensory needs.
“When I look at Afiyah seeking pleasure from such a simple thing, she reminds me of what life is truly all about.”
Knowledge is Power
In the world of parenting, especially when caring for children with severe autism, Faria Arsh offers a valuable piece of advice: “Be kind to yourself.”
The journey of parenting, often fraught with self-doubt, becomes even more challenging when autism is in the picture.
Faria emphasises the importance of self-compassion, urging parents to avoid being overly critical of themselves.
She knows firsthand the tumultuous emotional rollercoaster that comes with caring for a child with autism.
In addition to self-kindness, Faria encourages parents to embark on an educational journey.
Knowledge, she says, is a powerful tool when dealing with the challenges of autism.
By arming themselves with a deeper understanding of autism or any disability their child may have, parents can equip themselves with the tools and techniques necessary to navigate the complex world of autism.
Community, Empowerment, and Raising Awareness: Faria’s Triumph through “Living With Autism”
Through her “Living With Autism” website, Faria has witnessed the incredible power of community and the impact of awareness.
She shares that the most remarkable success stories have emerged from the unity and support found within this online community.
Faria has not only raised awareness about autism but has also forged friendships across the globe.
Faria said: “Autism is a complex disability and for some, it’s an invisible disability as it’s a wide spectrum and a person with autism can fall anywhere on the spectrum.
“Autism awareness and the workshops I run are not just for parents of autistic kids, but they are for every one of us. I feel that everyone should take advantage of the autism workshop so that if they ever come across an autistic person, they know what to expect and how they can help them.
“Through awareness, I also hope to tackle the stigma attached to autism and other disabilities.”
The heartwarming support that flows through the community is tangible.
When individuals are in need, Faria is there for them, and reciprocally, she has received an outpouring of support in times of her own challenges.
She continued: “I have established Autism Foundation based on the needs of parents, carers and professionals and our mission is to help everyone in need.
“We have supported special schools in Kenya by donating our toilet training books, we have also provided discounted and free workshops to
those who can’t afford them.
“Although our prices are very low, there are some who are really struggling to make ends meet but this shouldn’t stop them from accessing our services.
“Autism Foundation aims to grow with the increasing needs of our community and the best way individuals can help at the moment is by spreading the word and accessing the workshops.
“When it comes to other organisations, Autism Foundation has already collaborated with several organisations to deliver workshops in Birmingham, Bradford, Rochdale, Blackburn, Preston, and other areas.”
This community is a sanctuary not just for parents of autistic children but also for those eager to learn about autism.
Faria often receives private messages from people expressing how much they have learned from her page, allowing them to better support individuals with autism and their families.