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Autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) didn’t stop aspiring Bahraini-Baloch photographer Yousif Hayat from chasing his dreams. The 30-year-old says he has only turned wiser and bolder and is learning more about the world with every snap and click of his camera.
He is now hoping to inspire people to live life to the fullest, just like he does.
“I have lived with labels most of my life and they do not define me,” said Yousif.
“And yet, society has judged me time and again in accordance with terms meant to describe a condition. My talents were reduced and confined to a diagnosis devoid of the person I am. My ability is stronger than my disability and my disability does not define me as a creative being.
“With 30 years of life and struggle behind me, I’ve now embarked on a journey to be myself in a world that will one day come to terms with my truth.”
At the age of six, Yousif was diagnosed with ADHD, which is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviour or they could be overly active.
Yousif had struggled from school to school and said that the education he deserved was ‘elusive’ to him because of the biases attached to the learning process.
Implicit bias refers to unconscious attitudes, reactions, stereotypes, and categories that affect behaviour and understanding. In higher education, implicit bias often refers to unconscious racial or socioeconomic bias towards students, which can be as frequent as explicit bias. For example, instructors can hold assumptions about students’ learning behaviours and their capability for academic success which are tied to students’ identities and/or backgrounds, and these assumptions can impede their growth.
Nonetheless, Yousif continued his pursuit for knowledge through homeschooling. Then in 2010, he was diagnosed with autism.
Autism spectrum disorder refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication.
Each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. No two people on it are necessarily alike.
“Doctors labelled me with a new diagnosis of autism which brought a host of fresh problems to my existing ones,” said Yousif. “Nonetheless, in the face of hardship, I pursued my dream for an independent life, free to be and to create and the camera was my saviour.”
Yousif decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Anwar, a photographer for the Bahrain Defence Force.
“I was six when I saw my dad’s photographs and I wanted to be like him, if not better,” said Yousif. “I love colours and I especially love capturing pictures of the world.”
Soon Yousif took on the world, armed with a Nikon D5600 camera. He learnt the basics of photography from his father and his friend and began to see the globe in a different light. He is currently volunteering at Bahrain Mobility International, a social organisation committed to providing services for the differently abled.
“I enjoy capturing memorable moments about the lives of children with special needs,” he said.
“My experience and experiments with photography helps me gain insight into the hidden dimensions of life, nature and society.”
He thanks his dad and mum Shahida, a teacher, for being so supportive as well as family and friends who have helped him with ‘warmth and compassion’ along the way.
Yousif also admires Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, His Majesty King Hamad’s representative for humanitarian work and youth affairs and Supreme Council for Youth and Sport chairman and hopes to meet him one day.