I recently joined HOPE For Exceptional Needs, the Facebook page for parents and staff of The Hope Center special needs facility in Saudi Arabia that is unique in that it accepts students regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin, or type of disability.
In 2003, after only four years of operation, the Ministry of Social Affairs identified HOPE as one of the top fourteen “standardized” schools for the disabled in the Kingdom.
I posted links to helpful information on their FB page. In return, I received effusive thanks and requests from several parents and teachers for basic advice about autism and other handicapping conditions. I was able to answer some of their questions. But then I was asked for information on how to handle learning and writing problems related to Cerebellar Ataxia. I was not familiar with this condition so I did some homework (See my post on Cerebellar ataxia) and arrived at the following conclusions:
- Cerebellar Ataxia is too large and complicated a topic to be addressed on a FB page
- There are lots more topics like this that educators must deal with
- Is I wanted to help people at the Hope Center, I was going to need help… lots of it!
I had already met with Kathleen Posa, principal of PS177Q in NYC to discuss a “sister” school arrangement with The Hope Center through which teachers and related service providers would voluntarily answer questions of a practical nature posed. I am grateful to Principal Posa for supporting the idea. But, after I was hit with the Cerebellar Ataxia question, I realized the problem was larger than I first thought. PS177 is a premier, public special education school in NYC. Fully half of our 550 students are on the Spectrum. But, while my school could address issues related to autism, there would be many questions on other handicapping conditions. Obviously, sister schooling would not be entirely satisfactory.
I turned to Kathleen Tehrani and Stephen Shore for advice. Coincidently, they were discussing the same issue with advocates Fazli Azeem and Lars Perner but within the larger context of a peer-sharing platform for all Southeast Asia. While everyone agrees there exists an important and largely unfulfilled need for practical advice throughout the world, the question remains as to how best to serve this need.
I am giving it a shot. I have set up “Sharing with Hope”, a sub-group of my LinkedIn group as a platform for members to share their knowledge and experience with the folks at the Hope Center. The mechanism for peer-sharing remains to be worked out. What we learn from this effort will help in development of a larger platform supporting multiple schools in the Middle East and South East Asia.
Those who would like to participate in our little mentoring experiment are invited to request membership in this new subgroup where you can share your knowledge and experience.