When you are a child with learning difficulties, every day at school can be a struggle. Whether it is being understood by your teacher or being accepted by your peers, getting by academically or thriving socially, it is incredibly tough. You need all the help you can get.
Beirut Baptist School (BBS) has recognised how hard it is for these students with learning difficulties and so, since 2008, it has been running a Special Education Program to help them overcome some of the challenges they face.
“The Special Education Program is a place where students face success,” says Siham Fakhreddine, who runs the program which has over 60 students enrolled and 20 teachers involved.
With learning difficulties, every child is different and a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. The Special Education Program emphasizes individualised instruction. Each student has an individual education plan with objectives to work on, and they are given the resources to enable them to achieve it, be it therapy sessions, modifications to the structure and content of their lessons, or help taking exams. The Program students meet three hours a week while the rest of their peers are doing French, so they don’t miss out on the majority of their lessons.
The first thing BBS does when a child is struggling and may have learning difficulties, is to fully assess their needs and how they can be resolved. Before the decision is made to enrol the child on the Special Education Program, they are observed in the classroom and go through an informal assessment and screening. Research based strategies are tried, the parents are interviewed and if this intervention doesn’t help, a formal evaluation is then carried out, normally at the SKILD Center at LSESD.
The SKILD evaluation results influence the decision on whether the child goes on the Program or not. If they do go on the Program, they are assessed three times a year. After two years, they take the SKILD Center evaluation again, to see how much progress they have made.
The success of the Special Education Program is becoming evident. Four students, who were in the program for six years, last year graduated from the school. They passed the official exams and now all four have progressed to university. Other children who were in the program for 3 to 4 years have been able to rejoin their regular classrooms. These success stories help make Siham’s job feel worthwhile.
“I have a passion to work with children, especially those with special needs,” she says. “It is very rewarding when I see students reading and writing, when I see them improving and happy. It gives me satisfaction.”
With this long-term commitment to help students with learning difficulties, the National Day on 22 April is a very significant day for BBS. “The school view it as a day to spread awareness about special needs, discrediting damaging myths, and educating the public on reality,” says Siham. “It’s a day to advocate for the right of all children to receive necessary support as part of their education.
“Sadly, Lebanese schools that are not familiar with special needs do not offer these services and children fall through the education net, risking their future employment and welfare. BBS value the National Day as it serves as an encouragement to parents, teachers and children that children with special needs are worth investing in, that they can have a hope and a future.”
Chris Hall | LSESD | May 2016