What kind of image do you have when you hear the words “children with special needs“? Do you imagine a drooling, wheelchair-bound child rocking back and forth and unable to understand anything around them? That is the image most people come with when they visit The Association of Early Intervention for Children with Special Needs reports the director, Masooma Al Saleh.
“Oman has seen a remarkable achievement in the quality of life of its people over the past 32 years, particulary in the areas of health and education. This rapid development has assured Omanis their basic minimum needs. However, the needs of disabled children and their families has not been fully recognized, especially for children from birth to age 6 who do not receive any services at all.
The Association of Early Intervention for Children with Special Needs was officially chartered by the Ministerial Order (144/2000) issued on the 20th of May, 2000 to address the overwhelming needs of young children with special needs. It aims to provide a range of services that impact children’s welfare and improves the quality of life for them and their families.
The Association provides its services through a centre which currently is the only service provider for the age group (birth to 6 years): A daycare program in Al Athaibath works as a play school which allows the children to work to gain self confidence and independence. A home visiting educational program for children in their homes, where a trained team of home visitors provide a carefully structured curriculum to help coach mothers to become effective teachers of their own children in their own environment. Additionally, the Center provides an Assessment Unit which ensures that children receive a comprehensive program of professional testing and evaluation as well as the therapeutic needs of the children.
As an organization concerned about these children, it becomes our duty to improve the quality of their lives by spreading awareness in the community to erase the negative stigma held against this segment of the society, our children with special needs.
Our presentation includes an understanding of the services we provide to meet the varying needs of the children and their families as well as the role of community in this endeavor.” Masooma Al Saleh, director of The Assocation of Early Intervention for Children with Special Needs. A few interesting things heard during the presentation:
- There are no numbers or statistics available on the number of special needs/disabled people in Oman
- It has been decided by the government that the term “special needs” will be replaced with “those with disabilities”
- The idea of this Association is to create a model centre and then others can be started around the country
- 130 children are in the home assisted program, 65 in the centre program with 35 full staff members. This means that each teacher has 3 students. There are also 4 specialists at the centre which costs 60,000 RO/year to provide.
Masooma, during the “Community Involvement” and “Awareness” segments of the conference. mentioned that we could help through mass media and word of mouth. I asked her if it would be okay to mention the important work of her association on my blog and she said she would be glad if I did so and even allowed me to take a photo of her.Check out their website at http://www.aei.org.om and consider supporting them!