By Daniella Daou
The National Day for Students with Learning Difficulties, since its launch in 2013, has become a nationwide milestone and a platform for the promotion of cultural change for almost a decade. In collaboration with and under the patronage of the British Council and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), April 22nd of every year has been marked as a day in which we celebrate children and youth with learning difficulties, advocate for their rights, and equip their educators and parents with resources.
April 22nd, 2023 marks the 11th celebration of National Day for Students with Learning Difficulties.
On this day we celebrate children and youth with learning difficulties, acknowledging their efforts and determination. After focusing for years on inclusion in schools and higher education, the time has come to ensure a continuum of care and highlight inclusion in employment. SKILD hosted a dinner event entitled “Work is a Right and not a Good Deed” for the purpose of bringing all actors together – lawmakers, employers, and activists – not only to shed light on the rights of individuals with special needs for employment but also practically link them with businesses. It was an opportunity to introduce our students to the market world’s experts and vice versa.
Employers can help advocate for change in society by supporting initiatives that promote inclusivity and equal opportunities for people with special needs.
Our cry today is to give rise to an inclusive workplace that enriches the quality of life for individuals with special needs and offers them a sense of purpose, financial independence, and an advantage to contribute to society.
In times when our country is weathering the storms of the multiple crises, giving individuals with special needs a place on the business table can offer them hope and a better future. For the mainstream community, having colleagues with special needs creates a positive environment and better motivation.
Here is a flashback of the steps that our students have taken cautiously and patiently on their learning pathway.
It all started in the seats of inclusive classrooms of schools that welcomed our students and embraced their differences and provided them with a real learning experience through accepting, understanding, and attending to their differences and diversity.
Schools in Lebanon, like all other educational institutions, are struggling to stay afloat while battling the repercussions of the economic crisis on their operations and on parents and educators. This has, in most cases, led schools to close or limit their special education departments thus further restricting the few services already provided for children with learning difficulties. Through building the capacities of educators to identify learning difficulties and administer differentiated learning to reach all children in their classrooms, in addition to dedicating therapists for individual sessions, SKILD is reducing the load on schools while maximizing the learning opportunities for children with special needs.
The inclusion model in schools does not only benefit learners with challenges, but also creates in their peers tolerant characters who will accept diversity and project it to the future society in which they will be the core. Mirroring an inclusive culture that will organically replicate itself in universities, the job market, and community groups, naturally begins on a school level.
For our students, the normal shivering of excitement spurred at the moment of graduation hit differently. They knew they were about to face a world that is not ready yet to embrace their uniqueness. They were scared, concerned, and maybe a little hesitant. In a world of big concepts, new faces every day, and trials of all kinds, our students are flourishing!
To ensure a continuum of care and walk alongside learners whose school classes no longer accommodate their needs, SKILD moved inclusion to higher education through IDEAL – a two-year certificate program at Notre Dame University (NDU). The successful implementation of IDEAL brought about the desired results that will contribute to our students’ future in the labor world.
After opening the door to higher education, our challenge remains to ensure a healthy inclusive workplace that can help break down barriers and stereotypes and create a more inclusive society. Together, we want to see every child and youth with special needs in Lebanon recognized for their potential and valued as an integral part of society.
Hand in hand, let us walk alongside these bright students on their new path as they make their way into the workplace.
Advocate With SKILD for the Inclusion of Students With Learning Difficulties in the Workplace
SKILD is helping change a culture towards inclusion of students with special needs, not only in schools and universities, but also in the workplace and the greater community.