Qatar Foundation’s Qader Award opens door for people with autism

Doha: Hayat Abuzannad is a mother of triplets – triplets with autism. Dedicated to providing her sons with the best possible learning opportunities, in 2018 Abuzannad applied for Qatar Foundation’s Qader Award, a free sports programme for people with disabilities.

And for the past five years, it has been instrumental in transforming the lives of the young men – and the whole family.

Through the programme, her sons – Abdulrahman, Yousef, and Zacharia – have been able take part in football classes and swimming lessons. And these sporting activities have had a profound impact on their lives – beyond just the physical benefits of exercise. According to Abuzannad, they have developed a range of physical, social, and emotional skills.

“Through team sports, like football, the triplets learned how to work with others to achieve a common goal, communicate effectively, and build relationships with their teammates. This improved their ability to understand and interpret social cues, which has helped them in their daily interactions with other people,” she says.

“Swimming is also a fantastic activity for them, as it has helped to improve their coordination, balance, and sensory integration skills. They enjoy being in the water, it is a calming and therapeutic experience for them.”

According to Abuzannad, her sons have also become more independent and better equipped to manage their emotions. They have learned how to better handle frustration, disappointment, and stress, which in turn has helped them develop resilience and adaptability.

The young men face many autism-specific challenges while participating in sports, like sensory overload, which encompasses loud noises, bright lights, and physical contact.

However, Abuzannad has been able to help her children by finding activities that are suitable for their needs – like the Qader Award. She has worked with the coaches and therapists to create an environment that is comfortable and safe for the triplets. She has also helped them develop coping strategies to manage sensory overload, regulate their emotions, and manage stress.

Abuzannad praised the effort made by the trainers and coaches in the Ability Friendly Program, saying: “They are patient, understanding, and willing to adapt their teaching methods to suit the individual needs of each one of them. Their dedication to each member’s well-being and development is truly remarkable and it has played a significant role in fostering their growth, both personally and athletically.”

Applicants are eligible for consideration to receive the Qader Award for the 2023-24 academic year if they or a family member have a special need or disability, are living in Qatar, and are aged four years or older for swimming and five years or older for football.