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Haidar, age 13, is a new Canadian.

He immigrated to Canada with his family from Iraq several years ago. He was bullied by his classmates due to his physical appearance and disability from grade 5 to 7. Although his classmates regularly tried to provoke him into action, Haidar avoided physically confronting them.

“Fighting is not my thing; talking is my thing. I usually like to say bye and walk away,” Haidar explained.

Haidar’s condition caused him pain. For most of his childhood, he was forced to crawl or hop on his good leg if he wanted to move.

Haidar has had 12 surgeries on both legs most of them since coming to Canada. The most extensive of these involved leg lengthening and insertion of a metal rod. Further surgeries were done on his right leg to prevent it from outgrowing his left, and surgeries on his knees to allow them to straighten.

As of August 2016, he was healed enough to begin walking again on his left leg.  Haidar wears a leg brace to protect his left leg. He still has activity restrictions on him which include no running.

Haidar began attending Grandview in the Fall 2014 for Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy. He practices regular routines to strengthen his leg muscles.

“I do my walk exercises only at Grandview,” said Haidar. “I only walk at home and school”

Grandview also helped Haidar acquire a wheelchair for community and school mobility and a ramp so he can get into and out of his house.

When asked to describe how it felt to walk for the first time, Haidar said it was fun. “I could do all the sports I wanted to do like basketball and soccer. And I was happy to walk with my friends.”

Despite the progress he has made, Haidar still faces challenges from social stigma.

During a recent trip to Walmart with his father and brother, Haidar borrowed a scooter so that he didn’t over-exert his legs. He went off on his own to find his brother some candy, and an elderly woman approached him and told him to get off the scooter. Haidar tried to explain that he was entitled to it as a disabled person, and that there were two other scooters not in use. The woman would not back down and began tugging at Haidar’s hoodie to get him off the scooter, even as he showed her his leg brace, claiming that old people need it more than he did.

“I was so proud of Haidar,” said Kathy Sparrow, Haidar’s Occupational Therapist, in regards to how he handled the situation.

The conflict was resolved when another customer became involved, and Haidar did not have to give up the scooter.

His mother also had an incident when she was accused of misusing an accessible parking permit. Though she explained that she too has problems walking, her accuser didn’t believe her because, “she wasn’t in a wheelchair.”

“I think [people] don’t understand our problems,” said Haidar when explaining why he thinks people treat him as they do. “Some people have rare problems that cause a lot of pain, scars, and a lot of surgeries. Disabled people can have a lot of problems with lots of different body parts.”

Despite these roadblocks, Haidar continues to stay positive and push forward. At school he excels in gym and art class, and he expresses an interest in becoming an architect and designing buildings upon graduation.

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