“The type of fig leaf which each culture employs to cover its social taboos offers a twofold description of its morality. It reveals that certain unacknowledged behavior exists and it suggests the form that such behavior takes.” – Freda Adler
In this article, I am going to ask every reader to participate in a challenge. For added effect, let’s call it the Speak Up Challenge. I challenge each one of you to break down the wall that is standing in the way of our society from openly discussing and tackling issues such as:
1) Education for children with special needs
2) The integration of children with delayed learning symptoms into mainstream institutions.
Through my work with the Abu Dhabi Centre for Language and Speech Disorders, I am constantly exposed to how our society portrays anything that is a slight deviation from “normal” as taboo. Sometimes, I sit in on some meetings with my mother who has to break the news to a parent that their child is diagnosed with mild autistic features or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Nine times out of ten, the parent will respond saying that the diagnosis is too harsh, and that the child with autism takes after their father who is very quiet and soft spoken or that the child with ADHD is spoilt and needs to be disciplined.
My mother’s instant reaction is to reach out and comfort the parents by telling them that everything will be ok. Immediately, the parent lowers the defense mechanism that they had held up as they see a glimmer of hope. They walked into the Centre knowing that their child was not flourishing in a mainstream educational institution or was sent here by a teacher who merely suggested that the child might need some “extra help”. When I think about how many times I have sat in on those meetings, I try to understand why the parents’ natural response is denial and resistance. Then I realize that it is most likely due to the taboo nature of this topic set by society.
So what is the Speak Up Challenge? I challenge you to do the following:
- Speak to parents of children with special needs or learning difficulties
- Speak to centers such as the Abu Dhabi Centre for Language and Speech Disorders and see how you can volunteer at various events, donate educational toys, or school supplies and help with spreading the word
- Speak to the children in your family and educate them about special needs and learning difficulties; take it a step further and take your children with you when you volunteer or make donations
- Speak to the nurseries and schools that your children go to and support the integration of children with special needs
- Speak up so that families with children with special needs or learning difficulties and the children themselves know that the society is supporting them
Speak up so that, together, we can silence the taboo that is hindering the development of a group of our society’s youth. At the end of the day, each individual comes together with different individuals to form the society we live in. Let’s start speaking up for those that can’t speak for themselves.
Haif Zamzam is a bon viveur who just can’t get enough of life. Her inflexibility for the norm coupled with her constant hunt for a challenge pushed her to the private sector where she is a professional in a top-tier consulting firm. Haif has an MBA from INSEAD and a Bachelors degree from the AUS. Through her column, Joie de Vivre, French for “Joy of Living,” Haif hopes to show how living with your head in the clouds is highly underrated.