What comes to your mind when you first hear/see the word ‘Wonder’? Is it the Julia Roberts movie? Is it Wonderland where Alice went? Maybe an image of Wonder Woman would appear too?
By its very definition, according to Merriem-Webster, ‘wonder’ is a “cause of astonishment or admiration.” It’s something that never fails to fill you with awe. Today, we’re adding one more association for you with the word ‘wonder’ that’s quite spot on and aligned with its definition.
Meet Wonder – Bahrain’s first and only Autism Fitness Center. We know, it truly is a remarkable concept. We had a 1-on-1 conversation with Sana Ghawas, the Founder of Wonder, to share the beautiful story behind the center — and we bring that conversation to you, continue reading below!
Of course, one’s first question about any institution would be about the Founder, who are they, what’s their area of expertise, and what made them think of this concept. Sana Ghawas is a mother of two, a 10-year-old girl, and a 7-years-old boy with Autism.
She’s an Autism Exercise Specialist, and a Certified Personal Trainer from ACSM, USA. Prior to that, she has been a banker working in the department of Operations right when she got her Marketing Diploma. She was multitasking with both work and studying, until she got her Bachelor’s degree and further continued in that field because she enjoyed it.
Sana decided to make the shift to stay home a year after learning that her son has Autism. “I realised that my kids needed me more. So, I quit my job and stayed home with them. And I think that was the turning point in my life. Autism and a full-time mother.” – she shares.
The story behind Wonder.
Perhaps having some insights into Sana’s background has given you a peak on what’s the story behind Wonder, but we promise you, once you continue reading, you’ll see that it’s much more rich and complex.
Let’s start the story by saying that mothers are our heroes. The love they give to their children is, simply, infinite.
In the same month that Sana learned about Yousif, her baby boy’s diagnosis (he was 1 year and 8 months old at the time), she actually had a serious knee injury: a fully torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). In her words: “I had to face a new world with my baby son, and I also had to take care of myself.”
For 4 months, she had to do rehabilitation for her injury, then she and her family went to Canada to get a diagnosis for her son, as Bahrain can give a diagnosis by the age of 3 onwards, and he was too young.
With their Canada trip, they got a diagnosis and an assessment for her son, as well as a behavior therapy plan that can be implemented in Bahrain. They then returned to Bahrain, Sana did her ACL surgery, and went through rehabilitation again. That all happened while she was there for her son’s therapy sessions, closely working with Yousif’s therapy Center while also making sure that they’re doing the same at home to assist him with his progress.
Sana shares: “And at the same time, I was taking care of myself. I was going to the gym every day and doing my exercises to strengthen my knee again. Emotionally I had those up and down moments. But overall, I was happy. Celebrating every small progress Yousif was making. From making the first sound to mastering a new target. And I believe exercise has played a big role in how I managed all of this together.”
The birth of Wonder, as a concept, came to Sana after attending a conference called ‘Revive’ – one that unites health, exercise, and wellness coaches, nutritionists, and specialists. “I wanted to show those individuals with Autism how wonderful it is to exercise. To have exercise be part of their lives and to mean a lot to them, just like how it means a lot to me.” – Sana adds.
Her first step to accomplishing that was getting certified as a PT (personal trainer), followed by getting the Autism Exercise Specialist certificate from ACSM and Exercise Connection in Atlanta, Georgia USA in March 2020.
Awesome fact: Sana also happens to be the very first person to have this certificate in the Middle East!
And yes, if you recall March 2020 well enough, you’ll remember that it was at the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic. But again, a mother’s love is infinite. She worked on Wonder Fitness Center, a place Sana likes to call “A Center to raise athletes with Autism.” She elaborates: “I wanted Wonder to be a place that welcomes all individuals with Autism. A place where they can release their energy in a meaningful way.”
Services currently offered.
Not to let this article come close to an end without sharing where exactly Wonder is located, it’s in Saar; opposite the Villaggio and right after El Mercado mall. It’s a cosy studio that offers individualized training sessions, each session is led by a head coach and an assistant.
Currently, there’s a team of 4 at Wonder, along with a Behaviour Therapist that helps in assessments and managing behaviours. They look forward to having workshops for parents and educators in the near future.
A word to readers.
We’re quoting Sana directly on this part, as we wanted to share her message to readers of this article unaltered: “For all the mothers and families for children or adults with Autism. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. I know you have a lot in hand to do for your loved ones. But taking care of yourself will help you along the way. Exercise, go for a walk and give time for yourself. Enjoy the little things and celebrate the small achievements. They all matter. Autism can do a lot.”
The way we see it, Wonder is a love letter from Sana, as a mother, to her son, Yousif. She created a platform not to simply help him in his journey, but to also create a whole community to show him that he’s loved and cared for, and that he’s never alone.