Originally written for Open Your Mouth For the Mute, a benefit concert dedicated to raising awareness of the special needs children and orphans of Kazakhstan. Published in the concert’s brochure May 2010 under maiden name Emily Harris. Posted to personal blog on July 9, 2011, (link).
MY BROTHER ARSLANBy Emily Harris
Arslan is about seven years old, and he has autism. He is also my brother.
When I was at university in America, I started to receive several emails from my family about the special needs orphanage here in Kazakhstan. My sister and brother had started volunteering their time after school, and eventually they convinced my parents to do so as well. Soon all four had fallen in love with these beautiful children, and they assured me that I would, too, once I returned to Kazakhstan and met them.
I have to admit — I was scared. I had a limited experience with special needs children, and in my ignorance I worried about how the children would behave around me. Would they scream? Cry? Would they even realize I was there? What if I accidently hurt one of them?
My first visit to the children’s home was overwhelming, but I left already hopelessly smitten with the children I would eventually come to see as my sisters and brothers.
One such brother is Arslan.
My earliest memory of Arslan is seeing him walk around the playground with my father. He was extremely quiet, and like most children with autism, he shied away from physical contact. However, he trusted my father, and it was wonderful to watch the two of them because Arslan seemed to come alive.
Arslan has changed so much in the year that I have known him. Now when I see him, he lunges for me with a cry and wraps his arms around my neck to kiss me on my cheek. He truly loves people, and the love he shows me humbles me by the sheer sincerity of it.
Who is Arslan?
Arslan is a little boy who is fascinated with life. He is a child who loves people, a kid with a heart full of love and a desire to share it.
Arslan is a special needs child, and he is my brother.
He is one of many.