LAHORE: “There is a need to incorporate special children in regular education programmes in schools,” said Nuzhat Rubab, a psychologist and a volunteer at the Special Olympics Pakistan (SOP).
Rubab was addressing the participants at the Youth Activation Summit held at the Ali Institute of Education on Sunday by the SOP.
The event was organised to discuss SOP’s initiative to include special children in educational programmes in more than 20 schools across the province.
Rubab said the initiative aims to integrate special children in regular schools by addressing their special needs.
“At times there is a limit to how far these children can proceed academically, but by studying in regular schools, they develop better social skills,” she said.
More than 600 students from 20 schools and five universities across Lahore highlighted, through interactive sessions, the need for understanding special children.
Daniyal Alvi, the youth activation programme coordinator, said that the youth activation summit was one of the SOP activities organised to create a better understanding of the needs of special athletes and individuals.
Alvi, who has been a volunteer with SOP since 2007, said the organisers hoped to generate a larger volunteer pool from the youth. Speaking with The Express Tribune, Alvi said awareness about how to treat special children was missing from society.
SOP vice chairman (Punjab) Aneesur Rehman said there was still a long way ahead in raising awareness and social acceptance in this regard. Rehman said the SOP (Punjab chapter) planned to conduct special games in Lahore with an inter-school games tournament scheduled for February 20.
SOP national sports director Arshad Javed said that individuals with intellectual disabilities were eligible to participate in the special olympics. Talking about the unified sports programme, he said it allowed integration of special and mainstream athletes based on the similarities in their sporting abilities.
Javed said he had high hopes for the Pakistani team to be able to participate in the Special Winter Olympics in 2015.
“We believe the youth can bring a positive change through activism,” said Humayun Qadeer, the SOP administrator for Punjab.
“There are never any losers,” he said. “We mainly aim to engage special children in sporting activities so that they can explore their potential.”
The SOP team won 58 medals in 2010 in Athens, and aims at earning a larger number in 2015, he told The Tribune.
Twenty-eight-year-old athlete Mudassir Mirza, who has an intellectual disability, has won more than 18 medals since 2002. Mirza’s mother, Shaista Ahmed, said her son was diagnosed with a learning disability during his school years in Hong Kong. Speaking with The Express Tribune, she said regular schools abroad integrated special children with the rest of the students.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2012.