Muscat, April 9 – While the Sultanate, along with the world, has been celebrating the World Autism Day, a school in the country is all excited about one of its pupils. After having been nurtured and tutored by the school for six to seven years, he is making his first career move.
Samer al Harthy, 18, is equally excited about his new role — a job in the hospitality industry. “I would like to drive a car. I’m looking forward to meeting new people. I like to work and teach students.”
While he has college in his mind, he is also enthusiastic about writing. “I would like to write about college,” he added.
Samer had camped for three days in Musannah for Special Olympics training. “We slept in tents. I like sailing and we had the guidance of captain Adnan. I like swimming.”
“Like the other kids, special kids too have dreams. They want to have their own school, classrooms and playground. They want to feel ‘We are like you’. That is what we are trying to achieve,” says Amita Sharma, Director of Injaz School.
Samer’s mother could barely hide her emotions. “Our journey began 18 years ago. I did not know my child had any problem till he started going to school,” says Salima al Harthy.
Teachers noticed he was not able to catch up with studies. “At the time, we did not have any place to take him. I shifted him from one school to another,” she says.
“Some schools were good, but they did not maintain contact with parents. I am happy I can come and see any time how my child is progressing.”
She is overjoyed that “I can see my child play a role in society by having a job. It is the ultimate joy”.
The school had been trying to find him a job. Since Samer likes cars and mechanical work, in addition to painting, she asked workshops if he could get some hands-on experience from them. “So far, they have been hesitant. It is understandable because they have not done it before,” she says.
Samer did face challenges on the academic front and wasn’t clear what he wanted to do. “While working with him, we realised he has a passion for cars as well as carpentry work,” said Amita.
It was difficult to train him at school because it was not a vocational training centre. At the same time, it gave him an opportunity to excel in such activities.
“We realised we could train him in office work. He knows how to operate a photocopier, he is trained in filing documents and has experience in handling money,” says Amita.
One of the success stories for the school has been its integration policy. While students from special department felt accepted, other students developed the sense of appreciation and acceptance of others. “This will be reflected once they start working or in social scenarios. We need to make society accept the differently abled as one of our own,” says Neidy Smith, supervisor of the school.
The school is expanding to accommodate more classrooms for Special Department. On a daily basis for two to three hours, the special needs students are integrated with regular students.
Their daily programme includes physical training, music, computers, arts and crafts as well as interactions with regular students.
These are in addition to lessons in behaviour and speech. Mohammed al Rabie, a speech therapist, spends time with each child to help them speak clearly and enhance their communication skills.
“We communicate regularly with parents by sending home the work they have done at school as well as work to be done at home. Parents and the rest of the family need to continue at home what we practise at school,” says Al Rabie.
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