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My Journey to Rise Children’s Center, a Community for Children Living with Autism in Detroit

Updated: Apr 5

Growing up in a large, tightly-knit Arab American community in Detroit’s suburbs taught me the meaning of the famous African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” For me, that village was more than just my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. It was my coaches from the Dearborn Lions youth football team and Detroit Country Day, along with my peers and professors at Michigan State University and Wayne State University, and the mentors I’ve gained through my clinical experiences at the Detroit Medical Center and outpatient clinics across town. 

I am who I am today because of the community that supported me. That's why I've chosen to stay in Detroit as an adult, raising my son alongside my lovely wife in Beverly Hills, volunteering as a coach for the high school football team I once belonged to, and being privileged to be working with children and families living with autism every day here in Southfield at Rise Children’s Center. 

Eight years ago, I found my calling in a gym in East Lansing. I realized that connecting with people living with autism was a blessing, and I knew I wanted to bring that blessing back to my hometown. It was my first encounter with autism in my final semester in the Kinesiology program at MSU. I was training Mike* for the USA Special Olympics as part of my student fieldwork focusing on the psychosocial aspects of playing sports. I was there to help him develop physical skills, such as agility, spatial awareness, and coordination, as well as social skills, like self-esteem, emotional regulation, and social interaction.

I hadn’t prepared to work with people with special needs, but my connection with Mike grew so naturally that I knew it was my calling. With each bear hug from Mike, I grew more certain I wanted to spend my life connecting with people like him. 

During the seven weeks I spent training him, I learned valuable lessons that continue to guide me personally and professionally. His unwavering perseverance and meticulous attention to detail inspired my work ethic, and his genuine honesty taught me the significance of authentic and transparent communication. Because of Mike, I learned that people living with autism have an abundance of knowledge and wisdom to offer us that society often overlooks.

Now, eight years later, I have the privilege of serving individuals with autism in the same community I was raised in. I established Rise Children’s Center to foster a space within our community for people living with autism to feel safe, loved, understood, worthy, and included through genuine human connection. 

Rise’s mission is to use our expertise and shared humanity to help families navigate each stage of their special needs journey. Our Applied Behavioral Analysis, Occupational, and Speech Therapists help children improve social skills, functional communication, independent living, self-regulation, play skills, feeding, and learning strategies. 

Navigating autism can feel unfamiliar and overwhelming for parents and caregivers, but Rise is the village here to help uplift every child and family who walks through our doors. If you’re looking for support along your child’s autism journey, we welcome you to schedule an appointment to connect with our team. 

*The patient's name was replaced with a pseudonym to protect their privacy and adhere to HIPAA.

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