(MENAFN - Arab News) Amjad is a 13-year-old boy who has Down syndrome.
He will attend regular school soon. This would normally be impossible, for Amjad's family cannot afford to pay for a private training center for people with disabilities.
But the Jeddah chapter of the International Islamic Relief Organization of Saudi Arabia (IIROSA), and the teachers at Awatef Sediq Center for Special Needs, have given Amjad the opportunity of a lifetime.
IIROSA is a non-profit organization and their Jeddah chapter has successfully placed more than 300 children with disabilities in thirteen special care centers around the city. The centers provide a network of health care services, education, advocacy and support for families who have children with special needs. More importantly, they give children like Amjad the opportunity to be a child, to learn and to play; just like other children.
Amjad's family is grateful for the support of IIROSA. Amjad's mother, a stay-at-home spouse, said "The dedication of the teachers at the center, their love and the help they have given him have done wonders for my son. My family had no hope of seeing Amjad improve from being stubborn and disruptive. The help he received from has drastically changed him and it surprises us. We thank them for their constant support and wish them more success."
The Awatef Sediq Center provides early rehabilitation to children who have physical, communication and developmental disabilities, behavioral issues or are visually or hearing impaired. The teachers at the center work with each child to improve their intellectual, cognitive and physical functioning, using the latest therapy techniques and technology.
Shefaa Al Khateeb, head of Awatef Sediq and who also teaches at the center said: "Many disabled children belong to poorer families and they are ignored because of their disability and are held back by their family's financial circumstances. IIROSA helps us to change the lives of these children. It gives me great satisfaction knowing I am instrumental in bringing positive changes to their lives."
Attitudes in society towards people with disabilities are remarkably backward and slow to change. Disabled children are discriminated against and treated as an invisible burden.
IIROSA partners and funds special care centers throughout the Kingdom to improve facilities for people with disabilities. The organization considers it a child's basic right to be educated and receive the appropriate support and intervention based on his or her individual need. Many families unable to support their children have approached IIROSA for help directly or through the special care centers.
The Tanweer Center is another private special care center in Jeddah that provides training to children with disabilities. A large percentage of their clients have cerebral palsy. Cerebral Palsy usually occurs at birth and can result in limited communication, mobility and cognitive functioning.
Dr. Lateefa, supervisor of Tanweer center, said she was inspired to teach children at the center as her own daughter has a disability. She has received many lucrative offers to work in international schools but has rejected them all to teach in Jeddah.
She said: "We focus on a child's education, skill development and restoration of confidence. Teaching children with cerebral palsy is not an easy task as they learn at a different pace."
Salwa Bin Laden, founder of Tanweer, said, "We help our children become more self-reliant and prepare them to participate in society by teaching them vocational skills such as arts and crafts, sewing, and hairdressing."
Amjad's mother knows with the continued support of IIROSA and the Awatef Sediq Center for Special Needs, her son will one day be a contributing member of society.