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Coastal rowing champion and fitness fanatic Amal Almalood is lacing up and stepping out every weekend to raise awareness about autism.
Her son Khalid, now 21, was diagnosed with the developmental disorder at the age of four. Since then the 40-year-old Interior Ministry civil servant has been taking part in various sporting events across the kingdom ... to share his story and bring attention to autism.
Almalood spends her Saturday afternoon walking and exercising at the Busaiteen corniche sporting T-shirts with Khalid’s name on it and other words such as ‘Hero Khalid’, ‘strength’, ‘will’ and ‘autism’.
“Having always been interested in athletics, I decided to use that as a way to show people that nothing is impossible if you have the will and dedication,” said Almalood who lives in Muharraq.
“Because we are in the midst of a pandemic, I have created my own sports programme consisting of walking and running, whilst following all the necessary health measures.
“Due to my son’s health condition, I stand for him and God willing in the future he will take part with me in all these activities. Sport has been a great way to include him in the community. He gets to meet, mingle and share his story with others.
“My son and all differently-abled children are a blessing. My message to them and their parents is this – you can do anything that you put your mind to. Also, accept the participation of our children in all forums and no bullying.”
Autism Spectrum Disorder features a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication. It is called a spectrum disorder because each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges.
Almalood, who is a Spartan Arabia band ambassador, competes in rowing, marathons and Spartan races. She recently took part in Bahrain’s Modern Rowing Race and swept two wins in two categories – the coastal competition and kayak race, which were both firsts on the island. She has a plethora of prizes from various events as well and has completed five marathons including 5km, 10km, 15km and 21km runs. She was awarded medals for Iron Girl and Spartan Arabia races in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Ras Al Khaimah. She is also a member of the Bahrain Obstacle Racing Club.
Aside from sport and adding posts on social media about autism, she is also working with the Muharraq Municipality and composer Jamal Al Qaed in an initiative to provide special music for people with autism.
She will also be sharing her experience with Khalid at an event held in co-operation with the Bahrain Autistic Society. She will also take part in an autism seminar with Ebrahim Al Nafaei, a member of parliament.
“I hope to also open centres that cater to autistic children, that offer long-stay for some cases where the level of autism is severe and are free of charge in the interest of families,” she added.
“Also, any family with an autistic child that needs support can contact me.”
People can reach out to the sporting Spartan @amal9980hope on Instagram.