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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 13/10/2012

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A view of science class at Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services. — KT photos by M. Sajjad
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Nothing can be more rewarding than special needs children rising beyond their disabilities to become part of a friendly environment.

Over 800 such children are finding new horizons and a new life, thanks to the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS), which offers early intervention for children with disabilities. Little ones from zero to five years are thus helped to become active members of society.

Hundreds of them could have become hopeless individuals without direction. Yet, at SCHS their hopelessness turns into a ray of hope, and their sadness, joy, for they consider the family their own and the centre their home.

As they outgrow the early intervention centre, they start rehabilitation until they reach the age of 16. Except for a few severe cases, which may take rehabilitation until the age of 30, the youngsters are introduced to regular classes where they learn the ABCs of writing, reading and arithmetics. Payment of services is decided on a case-to-case basis. After social workers assess the family's ability to pay, a fee is charged. Some cases are for free, but definitely not all.

About two thirds of the students here are mentally disabled, about a third suffer from autism. The rest are either blind or deaf. But, whatever their disabilities, majority have risen from them. It is gratifying to note that seven per cent of them have even worked as teachers at the SCHS itself.

At the heart of this rehabilitation is the full assistance offered by the SCHS management, staff, students and their families. They have organised themselves into students' group, mothers' group, fathers' group, brothers' group, sisters 'group, and even old students' group and often discuss what is best for those undergoing intervention and rehabilitation.

Palestinian, Yasmine Sulayman, 18, who has been at SCHS Al Wafa School since she was a baby, says that she has learnt English, Maths, Arabic, Islamic Studies, Computers and Music. "I play the piano," she says beaming with pride. She even won honours at the Shaikha Latifa bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Quran memorisation competition.

A mentally disabled Sudanese student, Momen Ali, 20, started at the early intervention centre at 5. Now, he is the head of the students group and, as such, he decides, speaks for the group and takes permission for whatever his group wants to do. He has been doing this for the past two years. "I have studied the holy Quran, Science and Maths. I love football. This is my home. This is my family," he proudly says.

Like Yasmine and Momen, Syrian Tariq Bassam, 12, has also been at SCHS since he was 5. "Mohammed Kalfan and Yasmine are my close friends," he says. "Yasmine helps me in counting, and I like reading the holy Quran and learning computers."

Mona Abdul Karim, head of Al Wafa School for Developmental Training, says that students from 18 years old and beyond hold 10 days of open house on a regular basis. "In a villa, they are taught to do household chores ranging from cooking to housekeeping and handicrafts. These suffer from mild mental disability."

She said that six autistic boys have undergone the same training. "They cooked, shopped, made their own stuff, and ate together in a home environment. It was very successful."

"On October 2, an initiative was launched for those who are severely affected. About 30 special needs people considered severe were involved," she says. "Children are declared severe based on assessments. Those with dual disabilities such as mentally disabled and deaf or mentally disabled and blind are considered. Others have cerebral palsy," she added.

New initiatives are introduced by Shaikha Jamila Al Qasimi, SCHS director, as per requirements and requests from parents who desire to have a continuous training for their special kids after they reach 16.

Built in 1979, the SCHS was set up to initially cater to deaf students totaling 40. As of 2011, SCHS is taking care of 96 deaf, 27 blind, 123 autistic and 409 mentally disabled children.

Abdul Karim says that SCHS also offers services to kids with disabilities from outside institutions, who are brought there for speech therapy or for occupational and physiotherapy. Some 444 staff take care of the more than 800 cases at the SCHS.

Deema Ikbaream, Ideologist at the Sharjah City Ideology Centre, says some hearing impaired children have undergone cochlear implant, which is also part of the services extended to them by the Ministry of Health. They undergo rehabilitation for two to three weeks, after which an external processor device is installed, which transmits sound.

Doctors, students and volunteers from Sharjah University have also come to SCHS to study files of cases of those who have outgrown their disabilities.


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