More Than Special Children
The Grace Foundation Works with Special Needs Children
Anxious little faces, wobbly feet, nervous eyes! The sharp sound of the whistle sent the young athletes running forward to achieve their goal not more than a few meters ahead. In the near distance a red ribbon undulated in the wind, beckoning the winner forward. The good start that it was didn’t last long, a little girl in all her zeal to race, suddenly took a fall. Teary eyes set in a sad face; she sat on the ground longing to join her companions running ahead.
A loud cheer among the crowd startled me into thinking that why on earth would a crowd cheer upon the fall of a little girl? What I saw next was indeed an inspiring moment. I still remember the awe I felt that day.
The other runners noticed the girl fell down, and all of them stopped in their tracks to turn back and stand beside her. They helped her onto her feet and holding hands, they all raced across the welcoming red ribbon. It was a gesture so pure and noble, it touched my heart.
Did I mention that the participants of the race were children with disabilities, which in general are known as “special children”?
To be honest I admit that I had never given any thought to these children before: for me they did not exist. Interacting with these kids was a totally new experience for me, and still a further shock for me to discover that even if they do not participate in society as we normal beings do, they are well aware and more sensitive to what is happening around them. Seemingly they do not possess the capability to express themselves; yet they do experience emotions as strongly as we do.
My interest in them deepened, as I visited their school “Sun Rising School” in Lahore, where I met 16-year-old Maryam. At the time of her admission she was assessed to have moderate mental retardation. She would neither take interest in her studies nor participate in any school activities. After social efforts of the staff she started learning her lessons and gained confidence in joining the social, cultural and sports activities offered by the school. She also started taking interest in knitting, sewing and embroidery. With her participation in International Special Olympics, Maryam won a Gold medal in individual skills in basketball and the first Gold medal for Pakistan in these games.
Today’s world presents a myriad of unnecessary obstacles to people with disabilities, both physical and social, that can only be explained by the fact that disability can happen to anybody at anytime. What these children lack is the self-respect, confidence and an individuality of their own.
The solution is to offer such children access to activities that give life meaning and purpose. For most children with disabilities, this translates into some combination of productive employment, contribution to family and community, and active participation in society as a whole.
Let’s be an active part of the journey for the special children, transcending from segregation to integration.
Ayesha Zaheer is a Volunteer Consultant with Grace Foundation.