Arsheel (back row, third from left) with Coach Paal Joshi (back row far right) and his team after they won the regional gold medal at the District 225 Glenbrook United Special Olympics. Akbar Lalani
There are many common themes in the story of Asad Jiwani and 19-year-old Arsheel Lalani. Besides being residents of Illinois and suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder, the youngsters share a love for sports and have won gold medals in Special Olympics. Neither of them consider Autism a barrier to their future.
In Arsheel's case, basketball is an old love. He joined the Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association at the age of 8 and played basketball for almost seven years, joining his high school team shortly after. The years of hard work paid off and victory came in a big way for the hopeful youth. In January of this year, Arsheel and his basketball team won the regional gold medal at the District 225 Glenbrook United Special Olympics.
Paal Joshi, the team's coach was particularly impressed by Arsheel's drive and energy during the game. “Arsheel was a vital part of our team's success,” he stated. “In the gold medal game, we were down five points and Arsheel played a terrific fourth quarter to help us win.”
Arsheel's team will be heading to the state tournament in Bloomington-Normal later in the year, which will be a first time ever for the school competing at that level.
Presently, Arsheel is in a transition program at his high school where he participates in speech and job training programs. Through the school's assistance, Arsheel has also worked part-time at places such as Borders, Old Country Buffet, Whole Foods and Oakton College. Arsheel is also a uniformed volunteer at Chicago Headquarters Jamatkhana in Glenview.
The Aga Khan Social Welfare Board for the United States is sponsoring its annual Special Needs Awareness Week from 8 – 14 April 2011. During the week, special announcements, activities and awareness sessions will be held at all US Jamatkhanas.