By JASNIYA BADSHA
When God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that he seeks is in the way people react to this child.
RIYADH- Hamza carefully put back the snickers chocolate bar on the shelf and in its place, put a bounty bar into the trolley. Smiling at his mother , he reminded her ” Saad likes bounty” ; referring to his 16 year old elder brother. 12 year old Hamza has Down Syndrome, a chromosomal condition associated with intellectual disabilities, where the person ends up having 47 chromosomes, instead of 46 that most people have.The extra chromosome determines their physical characteristics (short stature , an upward slant to the eyes) and speech and developmental delays. Inspite of his disabilities , his mother says a more loving child does not exist.
Hamza is enrolled at the Special Care Center in the Indian International Public School, Riyadh. The center was started by Mrs Sameera Ansari in 1995, wife of then Indian Ambassador to KSA and present Vice President of India. Since then ,it has been catering to exceptional children with developmental disabilities like ADHD, Downs Syndrome, Autism, MR & other behavioural and emotional disorders.
Mr Jayachandran , Coordinator of the Special Care Center , joined in 2003 , being motivated to choose this career path after his own brother lost his vision to glaucoma ,at the tender age of 8. He emphasizes that the main priority of the Center is to integrate these special children into mainstream society . They use several programs such as IEP (Individualized Education Program) , CLP (Cooperative Learning Program ), PCP(Person Centered Planning)-approaches adopted according to each child’s needs and have had very encouraging results.
He says with passion that “Education is the basic right of every child” and the aim of his team is to endeavour to provide every support to these children so they are involved at par in the society.
Mr Jayachandran also emphasized the importance of early diagnosis and timely intervention , failing which , he cited several examples of accidents including death. He admits that his job is stressful as one cannot remain unaffected by the pain and worries of these children and their parents ,whom he interacts with on a daily basis. Inspite of these challenges, he says that the satisfaction of his service is enough reward.
Saaqib was 8 months old when his mother, Dr Nishath noticed he had visual impairements compounded by hearing disabilities. Despite several efforts to provide him with the best possible treatment, including countless trips to physiotherapists , speech pathologists and other experts, Saaqib, now 16, has no vision , limited speech and uses a hearing aid. Dr Nishath says that the main focus of her husband and herself has been to teach him to be independent & fend for himself lest he be a burden for others , after their time. Thus speaks a mother’s heart which will always be with her child. We cannot but agree with her thought that God gives “special needs children “ to “special” parents.
Hamza’s mother, Sadia Arjumand is Assistant Professor at King Saud University, Riyadh.This admirable woman does a commendable job of balancing her career and caring for her special needs boy with unfaltering devotion.She recounts how they spent every week of the first 5 years after his birth in a hospital, owing to his proneness to infection. She speaks about counselling sessions and how parents like her were always reminded that– “ The child is not at fault”
Sadia feels that a mother caring for her special needs child should not leave her job for 2 reasons. 1.It provides a much needed social and creative outlet 2. The child is benefitted from the money that she earns , since healthcare for them are far more expensive than that for the normal child.
Nada Zarashan , who works as a Residential Coordinator at the Kerry’s Place for Autism Services in Toronto says there are ways to help these children.
- Treat them as equals, not second class citizens..with love and warmth ; understand that every child is unique.
- Educate yourself on the child’s needs; where in the family, individual and the team of therapists sit together and make an individualized plan of activities according to the child’s needs, interests and desires.
- Create support and service organizations in order to make the children grow up into INDEPENDENT adults.
- Spread awareness. Talk about it with people. Help parents understand their child’s behaviour.
There is a story going around the internet told by the father of a disabled child who asked some boys if his son could join their baseball game. ” I believe,” the father says, “that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that he seeks is in the way people react to this child.” The story goes on to narrate how the little boy ends up hitting a “grand slam” and winning the game for his team , after which they lift him on their shoulders and make him the hero. That day,” says the father softly ,with tears rolling down his face, “those 18 boys reached their level of God’s perfection.”
Just like that little boy, each child is someone’s baby ; each child is beautiful. How would you treat a “special “ child you encountered in the park? Would you turn away, would you be uncomfortable? Would you think him queer? Do we, as a society realize that we are all someone’s little boy or girl, despite all our abilities or disabilities?
Children like Hamza and Saaqib do not walk or talk like other children do. However they like to play, wear new clothes, eat good food ..they enjoy ice-cream . They want to be like any other child. Regardless of their challenges and disabilities, their souls are sacred and special…and worthy of unbounded love.
Quoting Mark Twain “ Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see “. Is it really so hard to be kind?