189 – Amjad Farah, of Livonia, MI Father Of Three Including A Son With Epilepsy & Cognitive Impairment
Our guest this week is Amjad Farah, of Livonia, MI who is a global account director at PPG. Amjad and his wife Buthayna, have been married for 27 years and are the proud parents of three children: Amal (26), Sadallah (25) and Abdullah (19) who was diagnosed with Epilepsy and moderate to severe cognitive impairment.
We’ll hear Ahmad’s family story, their immigration from the West Bank in Palestine, and more this week on the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Muhsen – https://muhsen.org
ARC of NW Wayne County – https://thearcnw.org
Early On Intervention MI – https://www.1800earlyon.org
Email – Amjad.email@example.com
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/amjad-farah-a0975643/
Tom Couch: Special thanks to Horizon Therapeutics for sponsoring the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast working tirelessly to research, develop, and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics mission at horizontherapeutics.com.
Amjad Farah: This is an angel that God has given us to take care of. And if anything, he’s washing away our sins every day, if we take care of him, if we provide for him, if we keep him happy. That has been the goal that we’ve had since then. Make sure he is healthy, make sure he is taken care of, and make sure he is happy. And it’s amazing in doing that, how that’s brought joy to our lives.
Tom Couch: That’s our guest this week, Amjad Farah, a global contractor who has three children, including Abdullah, who has epilepsy with cognitive impairment. We’ll hear Amjad’s family story this week on the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. Say hello to host David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Dad to Dad Podcast, fathers mentoring fathers of children with special needs presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads. To find out more, go to 20stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com/groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: And now let’s hear this compelling conversation between Amjad Farah and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Amjad Farah of Livonia, Michigan, a father of three who works as a global account director at PPG. Amjad, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for this Special Fathers Network.
Amjad Farah: Thanks for having me.
David Hirsch: You and your wife Buthayna been married for 27 years and are the proud parents of three children: Amal, 26, Sadallah, 25, and Abdullah,19, who was diagnosed with epilepsy and moderate to severe cognitive impairment. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Amjad Farah: Sure. I was born and raised in here in the US. My parents were both immigrants. I have two brothers, one older brother, one younger brother. So I am the middle child, which, you know what that means, and all the troubles that that caused my parents growing up.
I was born in Pontiac, Michigan, not too far from where I live now, actually. But we grew up there. My father was working for General Motors, was going to school, started his own business. Eventually we moved to a little town in the southern part of Michigan called Temperance, Michigan, which is right on the Michigan/Ohio border.
It’s a completely different world from Pontiac, two very, very different atmospheres. Each has its own benefits and each has its own negatives, but to me, it was a real good blessing to be able to experience both diverse worlds within this country. So that’s me in my early life, I guess.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well thanks for the quick fly by. I’m sort of curious to know, how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Amjad Farah: It’s great. I mean, he’s still the man, he’s still the boss, and what dad says goes. Even at 50 years old, whatever my dad tells me to do is what happens. And there’s no doubt about that still. When I do visit him, it’s always, “Did you call, did you check in?” You know, all those sorts of things. He still treats me like a kid, but it’s because of his love for me. I think that he and I have a special relationship, and that while it’s clear that I’m still his son, he also views me as a friend. I view him as my friend. It’s a great relationship. I wish we lived closer, to be honest.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s fabulous. So I’m wondering, when you think about your dad, are there any important takeaways, something that you find yourself doing, a lesson that you learned or a couple lessons that you learned from your dad?
Amjad Farah: There was so much. He taught me everything from a work ethic to what it means to be a man and take care of your family. My father grew up in a situation that was not easy. He essentially became the man of the house at the age of four years old.
And his whole life he has taken care of everyone around him. His mother, his two sisters, he was responsible for them. He continues to do that as much as he possibly can. And he taught me what it means to love your family and care for your family and just be there as a man.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it is a little bit tragic that his dad, that would’ve been your grandfather, died when your dad was four. And if I remember the story from a previous conversation, your family on your dad’s side was from the West Bank.
Amjad Farah: Yes, correct. Both my parents were from the West Bank, lived in a little town there called [?], which is right outside of [?]. Yeah, my grandfather was killed when my father was four years old, and like I said, he’s been the man of the house since then.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, that’s a lot of responsibility at such a young age, and it sounds like he’s a larger-than-life figure, not only in your eyes, but maybe the rest of your family’s eyes, because like you said, he’s supported his mom, your grandmother, and his sisters, who would be your aunts. It’s like he’s the center of gravity for people who look for support in your family. And what a great role model. And he is still alive, and you still have a strong relationship with him.
Amjad Farah: Yeah. So, you know, just to be clear, my one aunt did get married and her husband took care of her. Obviously, they lived their lives. But my younger aunt who passed away a few years ago, my father took care of her his whole life. There was just no question about it. It was his responsibility, and that was what he was expected to do, and he just did it. He never complained. Never a question about it at all.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I love the strong family values that you’re talking about and that hopefully you’re living by as well, and the responsibility that comes along with that.
Amjad Farah: I try.
David Hirsch: I’m sort of curious to know about your grandfather on your mom’s side. Did you know him at all?
Amjad Farah: I did know him. My grandparents all lived in the Middle East, when I was here. So I did see my mom’s father a few times when I was young, but he passed away from cancer when I was still young.
I remember him fondly. He is buried here in the US, because that’s where he passed away. And I still go to his grave every opportunity I have to read a small prayer for him. But I don’t have strong memories of him. Just a few.
David Hirsch: I’m wondering if there were any other father figures, any other men that played an influential role in your life as you were growing up.
Amjad Farah: You know, there are always people I’ve learned from. There are so many great fathers in our communities, in our world. I’ve tried to learn from all them. There are certainly the people I work with. There are my brothers and my cousins. Also my uncle. He was maybe a controversial figure because he was a bit of a hothead—he’s my mom’s brother—but he passed away a few years ago, and we buried him next to his father.
But the reason he sticks out in my mind is when Abdullah was young and we first started recognizing he had problems, my uncle was one of the ones in our family that really just embraced him. He was like, “Nope. Bring him to every event. Bring him to everything. Don’t try to hide him because you’re worried that he’s going to act out or something like that.” And he really went out of his way to accept our son and all of his challenges. So I’ll always remember that about him.
My mom’s other brother is also a great father, and I love him with all my heart. My dad has a few cousins that I view more as uncles than his cousins. They are all great fathers. Some have passed away, and there’s a lot there that when I think about them, I actually start to tear up, because I know how much they loved me and how they’ve expressed that love, and by extension, they’ve loved my whole family. My kids know them and love them, and it’s been fantastic.
David Hirsch: Yeah, that’s very powerful. Thank you for sharing. So my recollection was that you went to University of Toledo, got a degree in chemistry as an undergrad, and then also did some graduate work at University of Phoenix in marketing. And I’m wondering, where did your career start and how has it transpired?
Amjad Farah: So where did my career start? As you said, I got a degree in chemistry, and then I went to work for a waste treatment company. That was really manual sort of labor. From there I went to a plating company—again, manual lab sort of work.
And then really, I would say my career started when I got an opportunity to work for a big company. The name of the company was BASF. It was a big company, a global chemical company. I started again in the lab there, but I was there for 17 years. I did a lot of different things and learned a lot of different things. They gave me the opportunity to grow and challenge myself and do different things.
Since then, I’ve worked for two other companies. Most currently, as you know, with PPG. In between BASF and PPG, I worked for AkzoNobel, all sort of coating companies. I love color, and I think that’s one of the reasons I stayed in coatings.
But also because it’s given me the opportunity to go from a chemist in the lab, to working in the manufacturing environment, to working in the quality systems environment. It’s working in commercial roles and field technical roles, and just to try so many different things. It’s been very exciting, and I’m thankful for all three companies I’ve worked for that have given me those opportunities.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So I’m sort of curious to know, how did you and Buthayna meet?
Amjad Farah: As we already covered, my grandfather on my father’s side died very young. Both my grandparents on my mother’s side, I knew them, but they also died when I was very young. And so the one surviving grandparent I had for most of my life was my grandmother on my father’s side who lived in the Middle East.
And after I graduated school, even before I started working for BASF, I went to visit her. She was in the hospital and wasn’t feeling well. Now, I should preface it by saying that at that time in our culture, my dad was like, “Well, you’re finished with school, you’ve decided you don’t want to go to graduate school, so it’s time to get you married.”
So we were going to a bunch of functions and events and looking for “the one.” I was having trouble seeing what I was looking for, and I didn’t know what I was looking for, quite frankly. But then when my grandmother got sick, my father and I went there to visit her.
While that trip didn’t end the way I would want it to, it was a real bonding moment for my father and me. I had been a typical teenager, a headstrong young man who was bucking against my father for a lot of years. When we went on that trip together, when I was 21, we didn’t have the greatest relationship. But during that trip we really bonded. And I think that is what’s carried us through.
But back to the story. We were there, and my grandmother was very ill, and it was clear that she wasn’t going to survive. So the hospital had us take her home. We set up a hospital bed for her. And there was this young lady who would come in. I thought she was a nurse at first. She would come in and take care of my grandmother, and then leave. I didn’t really think much of it.
It took me a while to realize that she was actually the daughter of my father’s best friend, and she was there between school and everything else to take care of my grandmother on her free time. Certainly, I noticed she was pretty, but it was the person.
And without getting in too much detail, on the morning of September 14th, 1993, which was my birthday, I woke up. My grandmother looked like she was coming out of it. And she was the only one who remembered it was my 22nd birthday. She wanted pictures, and she wanted everything else.
But as the day progressed, she started to decline. She said, “Call everybody so I can say goodbye, because today’s the day I’m going to die.” The town loved my grandmother. Everyone rallied around her. Everyone came to say goodbye to her. And I just remember sitting at the foot of my grandmother’s bed, while Buthayna, who, like I said, I didn’t really know, was sitting at the head of her bed.
And she was reading Quran. And I can’t do it justice, so I’m not going to try. But if you hear somebody that is good at reading Quran, it’s a beautiful sound. And so here’s this young girl reading Quran at the head of my grandmother’s bed, with tears streaming down her face. And I just looked at her, and I said, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” I just knew at that moment.
Even though my grandmother did pass away, it took some time. We got around to it eventually. But it’s my grandmother who brought us together, and it was the heart of Buthayna that shined, that was what attracted me to her.
David Hirsch: Well, it’s a beautiful story. It gave me chills. I have tears in my eyes and I’m speechless. It’s a beautiful thing. And I’ve heard other people say this—well, you didn’t mention this—it’s like an angel appears. Buthayna is the angel in your grandmother’s life. It’s very emotional.
Let’s switch gears and talk about special needs. So I’m sort of curious to know, prior to Abdullah’s diagnosis, did you or Buthayna have any exposure to special needs?
Amjad Farah: I would say, like a lot of people in this world, not really. We knew they existed. We knew there were people out there with special needs. We had compassion for people’s special needs. But it wasn’t something we were really involved in or that we knew about, quite frankly.
David Hirsch: So I’m sort of curious then, how did Abdullah’s diagnosis come about? What’s the backstory?
Amjad Farah: We were living in the Pocono Mountains at the time, actually, and wanting to move back home to Detroit. Abdullah was only a few months old. I had relocated out there for work and was moving back for work. So I was actually in the Detroit area looking for housing.
It was in the winter, it was December of 2002, and Abdullah had his first seizure. So prior to that we didn’t know anything was wrong with him. We thought maybe he wasn’t good at eating. There were some other issues too, but generally speaking, everything seemed to be okay.
But again, it’s very hard to tell at that early stage in life. So he had a seizure. I went home. It wasn’t like there was a lot of specialists in the Poconos. And the doctor said, “Oh, well, it was probably just due to a spike in his fever.” But my wife insisted that he didn’t have a fever and never had one. I should have listened to her.
But the doctor said, “Well you just didn’t notice it,” and quite frankly blew her off. And I did too, because the doctor said that that was the case. So I just went with it. A few weeks later, while I was back in Detroit again looking for a home, he had another seizure.
And that became the beginning of our journey with medications, trying to figure out seizures as he progressed in age, and recognizing that there were other issues that we had to deal with. It took a long time to get him diagnosed, and without a diagnosis, the insurance company doesn’t want to cover anything. So that was a challenge too, and we didn’t really know where to turn for guidance.
David Hirsch: So was there some important advice from the medical community or from others that helped you determine the situation and move forward?
Amjad Farah: I would say the best guidance we got was from Abdullah’s pediatrician. She was the pediatrician for all my kids at the time, and she’s since retired. Her name was Dr. Mary Alanzi. She connected us with the Early On organization here in Michigan, which is the Early On Intervention educational program that would come to the house and help us get started. They helped us realize this was going to be a lifelong journey, but also that there were resources available we hadn’t thought about before.
So, Dr. Alanzi was the key to opening those doors for us to understand that there was assistance out there. But w didn’t kick those doors down. We were uncertain. Do we really need the help? Shouldn’t these resources go to somebody that’s more in need than we are?
And actually we were a little bit embarrassed to ask for support and help, and we certainly didn’t want to take any financial support—which we didn’t. But it took us a while to get through that, to realize we did need help.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well thanks for your authenticity. I don’t know that it’s straight out denial, but you know, if you’re a glass half full type of person, you want to remain optimistic. Maybe this is just a phase that you have to get by, and then you come to the conclusion of reality, that maybe there’s something more consequential here and we need to dig in, right? We need to be a little bit more focused on what our alternatives are.
I’m wondering if there were some important decisions, looking back, that you made that have assisted Abdullah or have been important for your family.
Amjad Farah: For me, a turning point for me personally, I guess would be a time—and I’ll credit my daughter, who was nine years old at the time, for this—Abdullah was really struggling. Doctors used to tell us he might not live to see five years old.
Thankfully, he’s 19 years old, and he’s healthy and he’s happy and he’s darn near six foot, 180 pounds. He’s a child at heart. So it doesn’t really matter now. But at the time, because of the seizures and the frequent challenges when he was young, they told us he might not live long.
And I remember one time in particular, he was about three, and his sister was about nine. She was crying, because he was really struggling. His mother was with him in the hospital, and I was trying to watch the other kids. Then all of a sudden she stopped crying.
I thought at first that she had gone into some sort of shock or something. “Are you okay? What’s going on?” She said, “No, I just realized something.” I said, “What’s that?” She said, “You know, Allah had to give Abdullah to somebody, and he gave him to us because he knew we’re strong enough to take care of him. There’s no more reason to cry, because if Allah knows we’re strong enough to take care of him, then we are.”
And that was a big turning point for me, recognizing that there’s a bigger picture here. Out of the mouth of babes, you know? So from that moment on, she was like a second mother to him. She and his brother are absolutely the pillars on which Abdullah has grown and succeeded. Getting his siblings involved in his life and making them feel they’re an important part of his life has really been the biggest success factor we’ve had.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing a very touching story. And in addition to the mouths of babes, I think it’s a great testimony to your faith, right? That your daughter at such a young age would come to that realization. It’s very powerful.
So not to focus on the negative, but to be authentic, what have been some of the biggest challenges that you and your family have encountered?
Amjad Farah: Abdullah looks like a normal kid or normal young man at 19. He’s a young man. He’s not a kid anymore. You know, if you didn’t know him, you just saw him from a distance, you wouldn’t expect them to behave anything other than like a normal person.
But he’ll still have his breakdowns and his tantrums occasionally, the same as when he was younger. If we take him out in public when there are those sorts of stigmas, people expect him to be normal and then all of a sudden he’s not—and you get the looks and the different things.
But that really didn’t ever truly bother us. It didn’t inhibit us, because that’s their problem, not ours. But that is something we faced. Beyond that, just navigating through the medical system is certainly not easy. You know, you get a lot of different opinions, a lot of different suggestions. Knowing who you can trust and who’s just trying to make an extra little buck or do an extra test is a challenge. But it’s your son, and you’re going to do everything you in your power to help him.
Generally speaking, people are honest and forthright and wanting to help, but there’s a few out there that are in it for ulterior motives. Being able to define that and get through that has been a challenge. Probably playing on the hopefulness a little bit too much, right? That if we do this test, we’re going to find something, there’s going to be this miracle drug and everything’s going to be fine, when that’s really not what the reality is.
But working through that, getting through that, navigating as he is gotten older. Also navigating the paperwork that needs to be done, to make sure that you can still take care of an adult child of yours that can’t take care of himself. So that has been a challenge. We’ve had a lot of great support and guidance in getting through that. But without that, we would’ve been lost.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. I’m sort of curious to know if you’ve gotten seizure control or if he still has seizures.
Amjad Farah: He still has occasional breakthrough seizures. He will have a seizure every few months, but generally speaking, I would say they’re under control. But they’re still there. They haven’t gone away.
David Hirsch: So is it accurate to say then that his moderate to severe cognitive impairment would be the biggest challenge, if the seizures are mostly under control?
Amjad Farah: Yeah. I would say that at this point it’s the cognitive impairment. You say challenge, and I just want to be clear. It is a challenge, but it’s absolutely a blessing. This kid is just as happy as can be. He’s so innocent, and he brings so much joy into this life.
Everyone in our house rushes home. I have two other brothers and they have children, and watching their kids grow up and watching my cousin’s kids grow up, everyone gets to a point in their lives where they want to leave and they don’t want to come home.
My kids probably feel the same way, but they want to come home—not to be with me, not to be with their mother, but to be with Abdullah. None of us can go any length of time without seeing Abdullah and hearing his laughter and seeing his smile.
David Hirsch: Yeah, I love it. One of the questions I had, and I think you’ve already answered it, is what impact has Abdullah’s situation had on his older siblings, your marriage, or the rest of your family for that matter?
Amjad Farah: Yeah, he’s really matured his brother and sister early, probably beyond their years. And one of the challenges that I have had as a parent is making sure that they feel it’s okay for them to go live their lives. Abdullah is my responsibility. And while we value you and we value the help you brought, he’s mine and Buthayna’s responsibility.
He’s not Amal’s responsibility, he’s not Sadallah’s responsibility. And I want them to live their lives and to understand that the best way they can help their brother in the long term is to live a happy, fulfilling life now, so that when the time comes, they can step in and help.
David Hirsch: Yeah, that’s fabulous. How about the extended family?
Amjad Farah: Extended family—there have been challenges, for sure. You know, there are the cultural issues, and maybe stigmas and things of that nature. But generally speaking, we have a very supportive extended family. I mean, again, our brothers and their spouses.
My cousins have also been fantastic, in particular two of my cousins. One is a doctor. He and his sister are both children of that uncle I was telling you about earlier, who have always been there, always been very supportive in the simplest of ways. They treat Abdullah like he’s one of the kids in the family—and that’s all we can hope for. So we’ve had a great support system around us. So we’ve been very lucky.
David Hirsch: That’s very fortunate. Thank you for sharing. So I’m thinking about supporting organizations, and I’m wondering what organizations have played an important role in your family’s life?
Amjad Farah: Well, first it was what they called “Early On” here in Michigan, and I know in every state there’s something like it. But recognizing that Abdullah needed additional support and education from an early age, they came to the house to help him, and to train us how to provide physical, occupational, and speech therapies to him, working with him all through school.
As he got older, organizations like the ARC of Northwest Wayne County provided resources and classes and education for us. They also helped us get him involved in things like Special Olympics. Abdullah loves sports. He gets to play soccer.
And because we were involved in soccer, all of a sudden there was an organization called the Miracle League that we got involved with, so he got to go play baseball. He’s probably not the biggest baseball fan, but he likes to have those young ladies come out and support him. He does like to flirt with the girls. And he loved bowling and basketball when he was in school. Those sorts of activities he really, really enjoys, and ARC was a big part of that.
But probably the one that’s most important to us, and one that really has touched us on a spiritual level and on a personal level, is Muhsen, which I know you’re familiar with. They really have brought a lot of joy to our lives and helped us in areas that we were struggling with Abdullah.
David Hirsch: There are a number of different programs that Muhsen has, and I’m wondering, what is the program they have where you get to go on a spiritual journey?
Amjad Farah: So in Islam, one of the five pillars of Islam is that if you are financially and physically capable, you make a once in your lifetime pilgrimage, which we call hajj, to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
So my wife and I had done the pilgrimage in 2014. But we’d always wanted to take Abdullah to Saudi Arabia. They have hajj which is at a set time schedule. But then they also have what they call umrah, which are smaller visits throughout the year.
We always wanted to take Abdullah. It’s a very spiritual experience. And we were always worried that we were just never going to be able to. Because how are we going to do it? How are we with these crowds? How are we going to manage him?
Abdullah has kind of outgrown it now, but he did have a tendency to wander. He was given the nickname Houdini by the hospital when he was younger. So he is a bit of an escape artist. And so we were very worried about this foreign country, big crowds, what if he had a seizure in the midst of this, things of that nature. When Muhsen came with their umrah trip for people with special needs and their families, we jumped on the first one.
The very first one they did, we jumped on it, and it was everything we had hoped it would be and then some. It was a blessing, and it was even blessed more because of Abdullah and all people like Abdullah that were with us on the trip. Muhsen did a fantastic job of getting some really great young people to volunteer, so instead of me being worried about what’s going on with Abdullah, I could focus on my worship.
They took Abdullah, but Abdullah was there every step of the way. He did every one of the acts of worship. He loved being there, and he still remembers it fondly. And he wants to go back, and one day we will go back again with my son.
David Hirsch: Yeah. That’s fabulous. Thanks for sharing. It has sort of the look and feel of like a Make-A-Wish trip, something you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do if it wasn’t for, in this case Muhsen, to be able to organize that with the volunteers. It just makes it an all around better experience than trying to pull that off on your own, if you will.
Amjad Farah: Absolutely. We would have been lost trying to figure out, okay, how do we coordinate these special resources that Muhsen did for us? And you know, they organized it so well and it was so well done, for anybody that’s out there that is thinking about doing this trip and worried about it, please reach out to Muhsen. You will not regret it. It was fantastic. I just can’t say enough about it. It was just fantastic.
David Hirsch: Thanks for sharing. So I’m sort of curious to know what role has spirituality played on your journey?
Amjad Farah: Well, we talked about it a little bit. My wife is much stronger than I am, as is typical, right? The woman is always stronger than the man. Early on she did not waver. She was right there. I will admit that I had wavered. The religion is one thing, and then the culture is another.
And some of the cultural aspects seeped in. And I started saying, “Well, what did I do? Why is my child being punished? Did I do something?” And I think there were probably others in my family that thought the same thing. And it was the strength of my wife and my daughter, and that story that I told earlier, that brought me around to saying, “This is not a punishment. This is not a curse. This is not anything wrong. This is an angel that God has given us to take care of.”
And if anything, he’s washing away our sins every day, if we take care of him, if we provide for him, if we keep him happy. And that has been the goal we’ve had since then, to make sure Abdullah is healthy and taken care of and happy. And it’s amazing in doing that, how that’s brought joy to our lives.
David Hirsch: Very powerful. Thank you for sharing. I’m thinking about advice now, and I’m wondering if there’s a word of wisdom or two that you can share with a dad, perhaps that’s closer to the beginning of his journey with a recent diagnosis or a similar situation to your own.
Amjad Farah: Yeah. Don’t be shy about reaching out. You know, there are a lot of us out there, and I think we don’t talk about it openly enough. I noticed, for example, PPG, my current employer, has started an employee resource network to talk about special abilities, and not just for employees, but also for family members.
So being a part of that employee resource network has opened up discussions that we wouldn’t normally have. And again, just reach out and find somebody. There are people out there. Work with your local ARC. I think they all pretty much offer the same series of courses that are very informative, very educational and helpful.
Don’t wait until your child is 14 or 15 to start working on the things that you need when they become 18. Start working on those things early, get it all planned, and just make life easier for yourself.
David Hirsch: Yeah. If I can paraphrase what you’ve said, err on the side of engaging and be intentional about your efforts, and don’t let your ego or your pride get in the way. Accept assistance, which I think is really difficult for men. Not necessarily certain cultures, but it’s just the way that men are wired. You know, we’re going to try to figure it out on our own. And it’s a strength in one area and a liability in another.
So I’m sort of curious to know, why is it you’ve agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Amjad Farah: Well, as you know, David, I thought about it for a long time. We had our first conversation actually quite some time ago, and I had to think through it. “Am I qualified? Am I the right person to do this?” And then I realized, well, who is it that I would have gone to? It would have been somebody that’s been through it. I want make sure that the next guy had somebody they could talk to.
So it was not an easy decision for me to make, because it is a responsibility, and I didn’t want to take it too lightly. But having been through it, you want to help wherever you can. And it sometimes doesn’t take any more than just having somebody to talk to.
David Hirsch: Absolutely. Well, we’re thrilled to have you. Thank you for being part of the network. And I’m sort of curious to know if there’s anything you’d like to say before we wrap up.
Amjad Farah: I guess the only thing I would say is while the journey is not always easy, having a child with special needs truly is a blessing. We’re lucky in that our situation is easily managed. I know there are people out there whose children need a lot more care than Abdullah does. But regardless, it’s always a blessing. I mean, the innocence and the joy that these children have—you know, they always say that those that have the least are most generous.
And you can translate that into the situation with a lot of these people. People with special abilities who have every reason to be depressed or upset at the world are the most joyful people, and you just want to surround yourself with them.
David Hirsch: Yeah. There’s an important lesson there. Thank you for emphasizing that. Well, let’s give a special shout out to Julie Tuher with Muhsen for helping connect us.
Amjad Farah: Yeah, thank you, Julie.
David Hirsch: If somebody wants to contact you, what would be the best way to go about doing that?
Amjad Farah: Yeah, the best way to contact me is through my email. It’s Amjad.firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also connect me on LinkedIn. Happy to connect. So I think those are probably the two best ways to get hold of me.
David Hirsch: Excellent. Well, we’ll be sure to include those in the show notes, so we’ll make it as easy as possible for people to follow up. Amjad, thank you again for taking the time and many insights. As a reminder, Amjad is just one of the dads who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father, or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org
Thank you for listening to latest episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. As you probably know, the 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free to all concerned. Would you please consider making a tax deductible contribution? I would really appreciate your support.
Amjad, thanks again.
Amjad Farah: Thank you.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process. New fathers with special needs children match up with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support other dads. To find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com/groups and search dad to dad. Also, please be sure to register for the Special Fathers Network biweekly Zoom calls held on the first and third Tuesdays of every month. Lastly, we’re always looking to share interesting stories. If you’d like to share your story or know of a compelling story, please send an email to David@21stcenturydads.org.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast was produced by me, Tom Couch. Thanks again to Horizon Therapeutics who believe that science and compassion must work together to transform lives. That’s why they work tirelessly to research, develop and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics at horizontherapeutics.com.