Lebanon Down Syndrome Association: Professors Providing Care for special needs students in AUB

27 شباط 2019 | 14:15

المصدر: "النهار"

During the class. Photo by Ayman Ghaddaf

BEIRUT: When I visited The Lebanon Down Syndrome Association program at AUB, which provides care for students with special needs, I formed a very interesting and valuable friendship, and left with major life lessons.

I became friends with Omar, who has special needs. Although a lot of people think that interacting with someone whom they see as different is a setback that creates a lot of pressure and tension, I found that interacting with Omar wasn’t any different from any other interaction I’ve had before.

I had a strong urge to help someone with Down Syndrome, and during my visit, one of the professors in the program invited me to be part of the activities that they have planned for the students. These activities ranged from getting to know where to put your clothes, learning how to use flattery or a compliment, listening to the sound of instrumental music, and so on.

The experience was rather amusing since everyone was communicating and enjoying their time with one another. As I was looking at them, a teacher came up to me and said: "You have to be more energetic when doing this activity! Come on you can do better.” She startled me and left me speechless, and I thought that she is going to kill me if I didn’t do it! This goes to say that the energy of the program is positive, dynamic, and alive.

As for those who are part of the program, like Ms. Hala Berri, the program coordinator, they enjoy it as much as the students do. She said that she found joy in interacting with people with special needs, and being familiar with their capacities, she decided to give them more chance for interaction because she wanted to learn more about them. Soon after, she found that interacting with them is not only a joy, but also a treat.

After the session was over, I asked a girl named Sarah a couple of questions, who is also a special needs student, about the challenges she faced. Her answer stuck with me, as I was inspired by her strength, she said: "Throughout my life as a child, people treated me differently because of my face that was puffy, but during my time here in the program, I found it very comfortable because they don’t treat me like someone who has a disease. They treat me like a normal person and for that, I am grateful for them because I have found where I belong.”

Feeling overwhelmingly inspired by Sarah’s answer, I told Ms. Dana, who is in charge of the sessions, to tell me more about the program, especially after seeing the impact it has on special needs students. She described to me what Down Syndrome in detail. She started by classifying it as a genetic condition that affects the chromosomes which manifest in the body resulting in lack of physical defenses and facial features.

However, she added that in some cases the syndrome does not affect the facial features, but it still affects their cognition. Then she went on and talked about the purpose of the program which is “to help them by providing three types of initiatives like how to go about their daily lives' tasks, so they can become more independent, and help them understand how to deal with strong emotions, and also how to socialize.

She then touched on an important point which is to bring awareness in society, so that these students can have more opportunities and become more engaged in society just like everybody else.

Some think that people with special needs don’t belong in our society, and others might think otherwise, but during my time in the program, I found that they do belong because every person is normal in their own way, and it’s our job to realize.

It suffices to say that everyone deserves a to live a happy life and that judging a book by its cover is merely going to lead to a divisive and intolerant society, which is why I agree with Ms. Dana, that more awareness should be spread, and this is also why programs like this are of great importance and a major contribution to spreading awareness.

أبو أحمد: لن نستسلم والصحف ستعود الى مجدها

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