BEIRUT: While most children find very little joy in learning, those at the Special Miles foundation find it less of a frustrating task and more of a joyous activity.
Located in the heart of Sabtiyeh, Special Miles, otherwise known as S-Miles, is a center aimed specifically at the development of those with learning difficulties or special needs, while simultaneously raising awareness.
It was founded by Mireille Chrabieh Abboud, Head of the Special Rights Department at the Eastwood International School in Mansourieh.
This desire for helping children with special needs and learning disabilities grew while Chrabih worked as a pediatric nurse and seeing children suffer. After numerous researches conducted since 2005, Chrabieh decided to invest in a center that caters to such children.
Chrabieh spoke to the parents of these children, asking whether or not they do recreational activities that aid their development.
“Most of the parents responded, ‘we can’t find a place because my child is slower than others or hyperactive, and no one knows how to deal with him/her’,” she said, adding: “So I started to research where I can refer those students.”
Most centers Chrabieh looked into didn't accept special needs children, and in turn, this fueled the need to have a place devoted to helping with this type of education and recreational exercises.
“So, I ended up co-founding Special Miles (2011) with my husband, Joseph,” she continued.
S-Miles takes a wide range of cases, including those who don't have special needs.
“I have some parents who might have three kids for example, and they only send the one with special needs. But we need this sibling connection,” she told Annahar.
S-Miles’ technique is different from other centers in that it's mostly held for groups of students. Chrabih stresses the importance of those group interactions. She believes that kids should learn how to cope in society around people, and her aim "is to put them in a small group that gets bigger, so it prepares them for society.”
The center accepts cases that range from Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Disorder, to Autism. Chrabieh mainly takes students between the ages of four and twenty-five. The program starts at three-thirty in the afternoon and ends at six-thirty in the evening on weekdays.
The program starts at 9:00 a.m. and ends at 2:00 p.m. Students start their day off with a fifteen-minute chat, which targets their communication skills within their small group.
“After the chat, they go on to start their research for recipes,” she said, adding: “We use the computer or books depending on whether or not the students can read.”
During cooking class, and after having agreed on one recipe, students sit and discuss the ingredients. They cook twice a week, one savory dish and one sweet dish. The meals are generally healthy.
“We work on the price of every item,” Chrabieh added, after they devise an ingredient list, which targets money management skills.
Next, they go to the market place to pick up their ingredients prior to cooking.
“One student will have the money and will be responsible to pay in the market, that way they’ll be dealing with real money,” she said.
At the table, students learn basic social skills.
“I have impulsive students that need everything for themselves first and shy students who sit all day not asking for their needs. I put them in pairs," she said.
When they’re all finished with cooking, students add together the price of the ingredients again so that they develop their mathematical skills. Not only do they develop such skills, but by cooking and mixing students are bound to learn a thing or two in science. Then, they're asked about the recipe in chronological order or not, depending on the objective.
This activity aims at strengthening students’ memory. Other activities include drama, dancing, and taekwondo, which all work on enhancing specific skills.
“We want to not always focus on their challenges and weaknesses, because they have a lot of strengths,” Chrabieh told Annahar.
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