Give a child a good environment to be in and they are likely to respond. That is what SKILD, Beirut Baptist School (BBS) and Wellspring found in the summer camp they ran together this July.
While there are other special needs camps in Lebanon, the SKILD Summer Camp is truly inclusive in character, intergrating special needs children with their friends so they can take part in activities together. Around 43 children attended this year’s camp held at BBS’s campus from 2 July to 3 August, 12 of whom have special needs and are already supported by either SKILD or BBS. Senior BBS students and leaders from Wellspring led the camp activities which included arts and crafts, sports, drama, music, dance and “huddle time”, when all the children listened to a story containing a message they could learn from.
SKILD therapists and staff from BBS’s Special Education department also helped, assisting special needs children and ensuring that the camp provided a healthy environment which was as inclusive as possible. For instance, when children got tired or found it hard to adapt to an activity the other kids were doing, they were able to go to a special room prepared for their comfort in which they could watch movies or do anything that helped them feel peaceful.
The leaders found out that listening and responding to the needs of each child often led to a change of behavior. Naji* was an angry and physically aggressive boy when he started at the camp. His leaders decided that they should act as role models and be very kind and loving towards him. When Naji bit a girl one day the leaders’ approach appeared not to have worked, but the next day he went to a leader and, without being told to say sorry, said a very sincere apology for his behavior.
Wissam* is a small boy that came to the summer camp from another school. At the beginning he did not eat his food and didn’t participate in any of the activities. When the leaders found out that Wissam was bored of eating the Man’oushe they provided and that he preferred pizza, they got him pizza every time he wanted it for lunch. After that, Wissam ate his food and started to get more involved in the activities. The attention and care Wissam received changed his view on the camp and BBS – he told his parents several times that he wants to move schools because everyone loves him there.
The inclusive environment at the SKILD Summer Camp has been a crucial element of its success according to Khouloud, a manager from Wellspring. Being inclusive is so important she says because “every person is special, and every person has a place.”
Chris Hall, August 2018