New Beginnings


In the late 1990s, I moved to Canada. Soon afterwards, I received my teaching license and began working in a school. The schools in Canada were a far cry from my teaching experience in Pakistan. I was not prepared for the culture shock within the education system. It was then that I heard whispers of this behemoth called Autism. I had students diagnosed with life-long conditions like Autism or ADHD. I thought of my former students in Pakistan and even my classmates from school, who could have fit the bill quite easily. Back then, the new research on developmental disorders hadn’t reached Pakistan; my former students were still labelled “careless,” “miscreants,” “imbeciles”, and whatnot.


As eye-opening as that experience was, the full comprehension of Autism and other developmental disorders wouldn’t dawn upon me until a few years later. As I continued to work in the Canadian education system, I gradually fell in love with their concept of inclusion. It was a new world where everyone worked together regardless of their abilities, needs, and background; it wasn’t just a lesson in the book. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness for my students in Pakistan. They, too, deserved a system that would help them flourish.


The greatest gift that I received from that system was hindsight. I could identify and then accept that both my boys had special needs. Pre-armed with the knowledge and also a mother’s intuition, I was able to help them rise above their challenges. I was fortunate enough to have the information, motivation, and ability to help both of my sons. But then, I’d think of children in Pakistan who went undiagnosed and were punished for their failings. I often thought of ways to help those kids and their parents. But because my kids depended on me, I placed those ideas on hold. I did not, however, forget all about it. In anticipation of the future, I began preparing myself; I went back to school and obtained a diploma in Inclusive Education, which was then followed by a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology from McGill University. Since I was already teaching, I experienced these things firsthand. But it didn’t end there. I also completed certifications for conducting authentic testing (such as ADOS 2 and ADI-R for diagnosing Autism, among others).


Eventually, as all kids do, mine grew up as well. And because I had raised them to be independent individuals, I could bring my postponed ideas to the forefront and focus on them. But here was the rub: I had worked most of my adult life, but it was in the capacity of an employee, so I didn’t know where to start. I was adamant – that much was certain. So, in 2019, I came to Pakistan, not as a visitor this time. I aimed to discover avenues to provide the same quality of services and care available to children in North America. As I went around knocking on doors, I began to realise the futility of the exercise. Several individuals and organisations were working in the sphere of special needs education. But they did not want anyone with new ideas to shake their cosy nests built on foundations of outdated research. I was disappointed but not deterred. By the end of that year, a clear picture began to emerge: I would build my dream school. It took months of planning and getting like-minded people together. By the end of the following year, everything was all set.


Future Smart Inclusive School may have been the culmination of my age-old dreams, but it was the herald of new beginnings. It was a start, not just for myself but for many others too. Two years in, our school has created some ripples. I see many other institutions following our lead numerous times, which only makes me proud. The children in our care have come a long way. These results speak for themselves. Our school’s “one size doesn’t fit all” approach has been a great strength. As a result, the students progressed in leaps and bounds. But it’s more than just the approach that makes us highly effective. It’s the unique blend of our team’s expertise, approach, continuous efforts to stay updated, and perseverance. All these work together in harmony to produce phenomenal results. All of it is underscored by the love and care showered on our students by our team.


At our school, we adhere to our rules very strictly. There is absolutely no room for adjustment or flexibility in our practices. This consistency has been another reason for our success. For example, one of our rules is to ensure privacy, which translates as parents not being allowed to see children in the classrooms. I understand from many parents and also from posts on social media (of various schools) that children’s right to privacy is often overlooked. Parents often celebrate birthdays in their kids’ classrooms (just one example). Future Smart Inclusive School makes a lot of fuss about privacy. This hasn’t been just plucked out of the air. We comply with global best practices. Initially, it was difficult for many parents to understand why we had all these rules and why we fussed about them. But now, when they see results produced because of those rules, they greatly appreciate us.


There was a time, only a few months ago, when I thought I’d be content once my dreams were met – and I was. But this little thought still niggles in my brain: what of all the other children? As we evolve, so do our dreams and goals. So, just as I fulfilled my first dream, I hope to reach the next goal too!

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