Portraits » Omar and Maysoon

Omar, age 20, is both an American and Canadian citizen of Palestinian ancestry living in a suburban house in the greater Toronto area with his mother, Maysoon, and older sister. He is in his final year of school because the year he turns 21 there is no more schooling for him as a person with a developmental disability. Omar has a schedule filled with activities because he requires structure and stimulation. Maysoon says Omar is a pleasure to care for if you know him and know the cues for his wants and needs because he cannot express himself with words.

Omar’s father is not a significant part of his life. His father wanted Omar institutionalized when he learned about his developmental disability from doctors in Canada. He decided to move to the Middle East when Omar was a toddler. Maysoon separated from her husband to remain in Canada to ensure that Omar would have opportunities. She was a well-established Bay Street architect who changed her career direction after learning about her son’s needs. She went back to university to pursue graduate degrees. She became an Ontario certified teacher specializing in teaching students with disabilities.

Maysoon also learned about applied behaviour analysis and chose to home school her son when she discovered that the school system was not meeting his needs. She taught him how to feed himself, use the toilet and read within a couple of years. She left her teaching career and went to Bahrain where her parents lived. She established a cutting edge program there to assess and teach kids with needs similar to Omar. She returned to Canada with Omar to enroll her daughter in university. The plane trip was too much for Omar. He experienced a significant seizure and Maysoon was advised not to travel with him. She decided to remain in Canada and got more involved with advocacy and inclusion efforts locally and internationally.

Omar was enrolled in school where he has done well as a result of Maysoon’s advocacy.

Omar and Maysoon’s involvement with the community is limited to events through CAM-D and they socialize with families who also have family members with similar disabilities from diverse backgrounds. Maysoon offers support to other families. She also spoils her daughter’s friends with the hope that they will give back through Omar. Other family members love Omar, but Maysoon says this is from a distance. They spend time with him only when she is around. Maysoon has a will in place for Omar’s care and is financially planning for him. She expects her daughter to be involved in his life.

Although Maysoon presents herself as very western, her faith is important and she wants Omar exposed to it in his daily life even after she is unable to care for him. She hopes that she can build enough paid and unpaid supports to have Omar live in his own house. However, she is also researching other options both in the United States and in other parts of Canada.


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