The Everlasting Smile

‘I see hope looking at Asif’, said the head teacher of a school in Rahim Yar Khan District after our two day Inclusive Education Mock Exercise under the EEQAP Project. Asif has a brain and behavior disorder characterized by severe shifts in his mood and energy, making it difficult for him to function like other kids in the school. Since the two day training was all about the belief “Yes they can”, the motto of the on-going inclusive education training, Mr. Taimoor, one of the facilitators volunteered to spend his day with Asif to test his skills after 11 days of robust training sessions organized by the professors from Washington in University in St. Louis in partnership with NRSO. Asif was not responding to any of Taimoor’s instructions initially and he kept running after him from one classroom to another, while playing games and doing activities with other kids in school.

As part of the Inclusive Education Training, different innovative teaching methods were tested and explored to embed skills in teachers such as handling disabled children in a classroom. The novelty lay in spending more time with children such as Asif by exploring a child’s interests, and where and when they start responding to teachers, trainers and volunteers.

Taimoor tried different activities and games with Asif, which kept Asif’s attention towards him and as some of the teachers laughed at Taimoor, others saw a bond between Taimoor and Asif getting built. After half a day, Taimoor tried his luck with drawing, and Asif started responding to him and expert from Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Jean-Francois Trani, who by now had his interests drawn towards Taimoor and Asif. While to onlookers, Asif’s sketches seemed random, the drawing worked to keep him calm and involved. Asif kept sketching for rest of the day while Taimoor was standing by his side. There was a moment, when Taimoor briefly left Asif. As soon as he realized Taimoor was gone, Asif tried to speak for the first time, although we couldn’t understand much, but it was clear from the sound and his gestures that he wanted Taimoor back at his side. Everyone including the teachers were caught by surprise listening to Asif and there was that magic moment when every single eye in the school was on Asif as he tried to speak after a long time. And as Taimoor came running back towards him, Asif hugged him, leaving us all in awe as our jaws dropped.

The team left the school after giving projects to remaining children and was scheduled to return after one day. To our surprise, Asif came on time and was anxiously waiting for the team as he hugged Taimoor again and it was clear on his face that he missed him. Asif came neat and tidy with clean clothes after taking a shower and there was a small miracle we experienced giving attention to a child with severe mental disorder. All he needed was attention, affection and love and this strengthened our belief, “Yes they all can”.

Written by Munib Sohail

Edited by Mara McKown and Abram Saroufim

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