December 10, 2010
Case 139: First day in class, I notice this 19 year old student writing with her notebook on her lap. She’s very quiet, has a shy smile, is soft-spoken, and takes longer than the rest of the class to grasp and apply what has been taught in class. I naturally write it off as being one of the weaker students. 3adee, no big deal.
Two days later, her notebook’s still on her lap and its quite a messy affair. Her pencils keep falling, she sorta struggles with turning the pages of her Student Reader, taking down notes from the board, and writing in her notebook on her little lap simultaneously. So I go to her, gently tap her desk and whisper that she should put her notebook on the desk. She does… And everything’s peachy, only to find that she’s reverted to her lap yet again.
Normally, I would be adamant and crack a joke and explain the advantages of placing the notebook on the desk and writing. However, this case caught me off guard.
I should have taken her abaya sleeves for a sign. The fact that they were all the way to her fingertips, and that she intentionally covered her hands. Why? Because her hands were tiny! Tiny in comparison to the rest of her body!! She is a tiny girl, but to have tiny hands that are structured rather differently is not usual.
Why am I calling her hands tiny?!! There should be some medical term for it. And I need to be told “so and so’s daughter has this condition and that is the reason she finds it tough to write at the same pace as the others do. And due to this condition, she also has so and so, because this is a genetic condition or a certain Bla-Bla Syndrome.” Truth is, never have I been told anything…
See, that’s a problem here. I was gonna say I think it’s a problem, but with my years of being here, I have learnt that this problem is something people choose to ignore.
I don’t know how it is in the rest of the Arab world, so I’m going to analyse my current Arab world, which is Jeddah.
There are ‘different’ people, and I’ve come across plenty. By saying the word different, I refer to people with special needs. The politically correct terms of this era being, physically challenged or a person with a disability.
You wanna know why it bothers me? Cz I wasn’t trained to deal with people with special needs. Not I, nor the others I work with. We’re nice, considerate, patient, educated, and thoughtful, sure BUT we’re not educated to identify behavioral, medical or physical conditions you see. Well, only to a certain extent.
I’m not going to go into how I analyse people I’m involved with in my career and research various characteristics to figure out what they may or may not have. I believe certain people need specific help, and the rest of the world has reached this stage whereafter a problem has been identified, a specially structured solution is given.
God bless my support group! Still, it depresses me and is rather stressful.
Why is it taboo here to say “my family member has so and so…/ suffers from so and so…”?
Maybe we/ Western thinking make it an issue and do the whole differentiation thing, because at the end of the day my above student works so damn hard and it pays off.
Is it my fault for noticing this difference? Or do we need to be aware of these differences in order to do our best? If you don’t think this is extreme and I’m just being a Drama Queen, allow me to share yet another case.
Case 87: A student from an influential family is introduced to me. Bearing her background in mind, I assess her and ask her questions and begin our first lesson. I assume this well-traveled, 22 year old rolls her R’s like the French do- maybe cause it’s trending?
Again, I just think she’s weak, but she works hard and comprehends quite well- so I am happy.
The girl does not only have a speech impediment, she is deaf. She reads my lips and that’s how she learns. That’s how we do it for the next three months. And of course, I come across a hearing aid, popping out of her bag.
What can I do? Nothing really. I don’t know what to do and obviously my previous experiences have taught me to shut up.
One of my previous experiences
Case 22: Student in a group takes forever to answer whatever it may be. Forever is like 3 minutes minimum and I am not exaggerating. The simplest question. Other students get clearly frustrated but again no one can say anything to this super sweet, nervous wreck chick, who obviously has a condition. She just like them, has paid for the service and is a client. I speculate… Is she just nervous or is there something medically wrong?
I do the best thing, I go to my superiors and present this case and I get told that she can be nervous because her parents are divorced. I am not mocking the fact that her typical behavior is to think for about 3 minutes and stutter and mumble her answer to something like “what did you eat for breakfast?”. No, she suffers from something.
I have, for the record come across people with divorced parents, dead parents, children from war-zones whose parents died in front of them and all that kind of stuff from my 300 years experience of working with UNHCR and the likes. I am confident in my knowledge of identifying the divorced kids syndrome.
But oh well, the only thing I can do is ignore as I did, when a random female adult student of mine behaved quite childish and stalked me in the toilets and cried LOUDLY with the buhuu, rubbing her eyes, and shivers, just because I didn’t accept her little gift of a bar of Kit-Kat. Her letters of her undying love for me, and her standing behind trees waiting for me to run a simple errand are apparently normal adult behavior. See, I asked and I was told, there was nothing wrong with her.