I met Fatima, a little girl with Down’s syndrome, at our summer camp in August. She arrived with her mom, and was a bit shy initially. We became fast friends after I sat with her and repeated the directions for activities. Sometimes, I just stayed with her and tried to engage her in some simple questions. I noticed that she repeated everything I said, rather than answered me.
To determine where Fatima might be developmentally, I checked out her understanding of numbers, colors, simple objects, relevant places, people and objects.
I spent a little time with her when she came to camp, but thought it would be good for her to play with other kids. However, she was mostly alone, or staring at kids when she sat next to them.
She returned to school in the fall at a local madrasa. I wondered what types of activities she might be doing in her classroom. Her mother had told another PCV that her daughter did not have handicaps, so I didn’t discuss that with her when I met her in early November. I told her that I wanted to work with Fatima and another little special needs girl for an hour after school. She seemed delighted with that arrangement and was always at the Nedi Neswi on time with Fatima.
After several classes with the two girls, I decided that it would be good to try out one-on-one tutoring with Fatima in her home. She wears glasses, is very distractible, and the other little girl was way beyond Fatima in every activity that I did with them. I worked in Fatima’s home, with several family members looking on and encouraging her when she didn’t answer. I liked them getting involved because it was great for them to interact with Fatima, and see that she does indeed have special needs.
We have been working on many activities that strengthen Fatima’s grasp for tasks such as buttoning, zipping, tying, and writing. We have practiced numbers up to five, colors and people. I can see that she enjoys painting and coloring, but she doesn’t have an established handedness yet.
I took pictures of her and printed two of the same, mounting one on construction paper. With the mounted one, I drew lines and made a puzzle with six pieces of Fatima’s photo. While she loved seeing her picture, she hasn’t been able to put the entire puzzle together. With time and practice, she will be able to do that and learn other skills.
It’s obviously important to work with Fatima; she has many gaps and she needs a lot of repetition. What’s really cool is that her mom told me that Elksabi has no services for children with handicaps, so it seems that she does indeed understand that her daughter needs more than many of her peers. Also, I really enjoy the way the family watches Fatima. It’s clear that she is loved and they want her to succeed in the simple activities we do. Plus, we always finish up with tea and cookies, of course!