Unleash Innovation in Education

A blog contribution by the 2020 Global Compact Network Lebanon SDG Pioneer!

Every Child is Gifted. They just Unwrap their packages at Different Times. “Unknown”

“My child is shy, impulsive, slow, hyperactive, anxious, dependent”

“My child often has problems staying focused, sitting still, completing homework, staying organized, communicating, following instructions”

“My child experiences feelings of failure, lack of acceptance, bullying, frustration”

This is what I used to hear from overwhelmed parents. I just wanted to help! I wanted to support and guide kids with learning difficulties and special needs, their siblings, parents, teachers, and friends.

At that time in 2005, 16 years ago, I was working with students who had different learning disabilities capitalized by social emotional issues. I used to think about their life. How does it look like? Are they enjoying life? Do they have enough time to play? When bullied, do they know how to react or what to do? To what extent are they dependent or independent? Are they socially well respected and appreciated? Do they know how to defend themselves? Do they know how to build friendship? Do they know how to communicate with others?

Many questions kept on roaming in my head.

A kid diagnosed with a specific learning difficulty will definitely need special therapies and modified and/or accommodated program at school.

How will the parents react to such a situation? Who will guide them to do what? Will they accept their child’s difficulty? Will they ignore it? Are they ready to do whatever it costs to take that extra mile and leap to alter the reality?

I have realized how much this situation was challenging for both parents and their kids who have diverse difficulties. I have also realized and appreciated how much effort they need to put in order to see improvement even if it was minimal. I have understood that those kids need to follow a specific plan under a multidisciplinary team for them to be more engaged both academically and socially. Those kids need to follow an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school, need to have weekly sessions with speech therapist, psychomotor therapist, psychologist or even any intervention required.

However, the big questions that I used to have and ask all parents about it “What does your kid do in his free time? What are his talents, hobbies and skills? Does he/she do any activity just as his/her siblings, cousins or friends? The answers were so tough to my heart and waving around my head!

A mom would say “There is no time to do or be engaged in any activity, my daughter has a full afternoon schedule between therapies and homework completion.”

Another parent would reply “I wish my son can join a club or activity centers. I have tried, but it wasn’t easy neither for the coach nor for my son. The coach doesn’t know how to deal with my son and my son feels that he is an aloof loner unable to cope with other kids.”

A dad would say “I will never know what are my kid’s hobbies or talents since he doesn’t have any from the first place.”

Again, I would say that those answers have broken my heart!

I totally have different beliefs and thoughts. I believe that every single person on this planet has a gift, but they just unwrap it at different times using different ways. Yes, ALL kids who have learning difficulties are skilled and talented. It is our job to help them reveal their talents. We need to give them the tools to nurture their skills, unleash their potentials, push them towards the action and realize what are they good at and can achieve. We need to hunt and train the suitable coaches, facilitators and therapists.

I am Mireille Chrabieh who has once delved into my entrepreneurial initiative that tackled different SDG goals, one of which is quality education and through it I sneaked to target the other 16 SDGs throughout our programs. It was amazing how students reacted and responded to these goals and influenced their well-being and the community around them.

My experience with UN Global Compact, SDG pioneers, has given me the chance to see things from different angles, think creatively and out of the box. Throughout those years, I have contributed by implementing effective actions in place, setting appropriate goals and indicating tangible impacts. I have tried and still trying to apply creativity and innovation to solve sustainable development challenges in the field of special education.

I have led the development of innovative services and business throughout the implementation of therapeutic recreational activities, social and life skills, career guidance, and work skills to access transition planning and academic functional, pre-vocational and vocational training.

My experience with SDG pioneers has opened for me a path to have new ideas and new ways during this   Covid-19 pandemic.

Currently, the world is facing a global health crisis unlike any other – COVID-19 which has affected negatively magnified spread of human suffering by unbalancing the economic global state and affecting the academic, social and emotional well-being.

Therefore, I have responded to COVID-19 pandemic through the implementation of online learning and implementing the career guidance and work skills programs by using different online strategies – Individual and group work.

Furthermore, I have 2 new EdTech & HealthTech projects which will be an added value to the general and special education sectors.

Of course, I have faced many obstacles and challenges throughout my journey and still am. Yet, how do I overcome those obstacles and move on?

Throughout my profession and life experience, I have learned and believed that Education is for ALL; empowering children through their strengths and passions allows them to learn in different creative ways since all kids with learning difficulties and special needs are talented, skilled and have a great future ahead only if we grant them the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential and show their talents to the world. I have realized that when you love your student and when you are patient with your student, then you would overcome most of the obstacles.

I believe that every individual with learning difficulties has the right to receive appropriate care without labeling, in an inclusive setting where he/she develops feelings of security and confidence in order to merge and progress within the society.

“Mom! Dad! Teacher!  Make room for talents…

                                                                                                                 


Explore more about the Author

When students experience any learning challenge or life stressor, it is not uncommon for their lives to unravel. Mireille Chrabieh’s great passion is to support students overcome barriers that impact their learning, social and work skills. She holds a BS in Nursing from Balamand University (BU), and a Teaching Diploma in Special Education from the American University of Beirut (AUB). She has worked as a registered pediatric nurse for 5 years at AUBMC and since 2005 being a special education teacher, coordinator and head of department at Eastwood International School (EIS).

Mireille carries a sustainable and entrepreneurial mindset aimed at supporting students in overcoming challenges that might impact their educational, social and professional skills. By combining education and technology; EdTech and HealthTech in an innovation approach. Mireille’s passion inspired business leaders on how to use business as a good force towards advancing the 2030 Agenda for the 17 SDGs.

Mireille is the co-founder, managing partner and special education consultant of Special miles (S-miles) center, an educational, therapeutic and activity center for students with learning disabilities and special needs since 2011. She is the co-founder and president of a non-profit organization for special needs students: Special Needs Activity Programs (SNAP). Mireille is the co-founder of the Lebanese Social Enterprises Association (LSE) to support the affiliated social enterprises.

Explore more about Special miles (S-miles) center: http://www.specialmiles.org/default.aspx?id=778

Mireille won and participated in several local and international social and entrepreneurship awards: 1st prize award of Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC), the blessing foundation for women empowerment, UNIDO, MedGeneration, GESS Award in UAE for best inclusion initiative, UN Global Compact SDG 2020 pioneer, SPARK in partnership with Berytech to support MSMEs in Lebanon.

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