Nabila Samim is a 12-year-old with a winning smile – it never left her face during a recent visit. She’s affectionate, and works diligently around the house while a reporter speaks with her father, Noor Samim, in the living room of their South Sacramento apartment.
She has cerebral palsy, a brain condition that affects muscle control, balance and coordination. She can walk OK at home, but can’t go outside without supervision, which is frustrating for her.
Noor worked with the State Department in Mazar, Afghanistan, training police and military, he said. He fled with his family to America when he felt their lives were in danger, as the Afghan insurgents disliked him because of his line of work.
Noor said Nabila couldn’t get quality medical care for her cerebral palsy while in Afghanistan.
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“I took her to many hospitals in Afghanistan,” he said. “And they didn’t help a lot, to be honest.”
Nabila also couldn’t get a good education in Afghanistan, partly because of her condition, said Noor. Last year was her first time in school.
Her special education teacher at Fern Bacon Middle School, Stacy Gale, said Nabila is “sharp” and probably could have been in regular classes if she had had access to better medical care as she was growing up in Afghanistan.
Nabila is a great listener, but has trouble speaking, as cerebral palsy affects her speech patterns.
She’s in speech therapy, but for now she speaks to her family in what Gale calls “their secret language” – her parents always know what she means, even when she can’t speak. She can, however, use some Pashto, her native language, and is learning English.
Nabila’s dream this year is for a Rifton Adaptive Tricycle, which allows her to strengthen her arms and legs, and allows her to go outside with her siblings without being followed by a parent at all times. Noor said that Nabila got to try one out at Shriners’ Hospital, and she liked it a lot.
The Rifton tricycle has a low step for easy accessibility and a low, fixed gear to help its user pedal more easily. It also would help teach Nabila balance, which could keep her from falling down while walking. The trike can also increase endurance and offer more exercise than walking can for Nabila.
The tricycle would grant Nabila a modicum of freedom, something she doesn’t currently have much of because of her condition.
“When she gets comfortable, and feels a little bit more freedom, that helps with her brain,” said Noor Samim. “And when her brain works well, I think all these problems will be reduced.”
Gale says Nabila has improved a lot since she first started teaching her. She said Nabila had her mom with her every day last year when she attended Bowling Green Elementary, which shares a campus with Fern Bacon.
The push toward more independence has been a tough adjustment for Nabila, who gets upset and cries a lot at school. But since she started seeing Gale, “the classroom has changed a lot, so we can do stuff together.”
Gale said that Nabila gets occupational, physical and speech therapy at school. They read short novels, do art projects and do exercises like outdoor walks and yoga.
“She’s happier now, she makes jokes,” said Gale, who also said Nabila is “nurturing of other students” and tries to help out and take care of her classmates. Like anyone, she has good days and bad days.
Gale said that with her retirement approaching next year, she wanted to make sure to help Nabila’s family got her the tricycle she needs now.
“She’s one of those kids that really deserves it, and her family will be really appreciative,” Gale said. “She’s a sweet, independent girl … this will change her life.”
Needed: A Rifton adaptive tricycle for Nabila Samim, who suffers from cerebral palsy.