How Ready are Businesses in Bahrain to Accept People with Special Needs and Challenges?

REACH Behavior & Development Center for Children with Autism and other Developmental Delays is the only center in Bahrain to earn International Accreditation By: Mona Tadayyon, Founder and CEO of REACH Behavior and Development Center  Inclusivity in employment is directly linked to inclusive education, and we have witnessed recently that there has been a global movement to develop inclusivity in education. The introduction of inclusive education brings with it a shift in the pattern of thinking within the education system and the social world. Inclusion is about the establishment and maintenance of a social world in which all people of different capabilities experience the realities of inclusive values and relationships. Educators need to comprehend that inclusion is about diversity and change in attitudes and instructional methods of teaching. Inclusion is a process that involves a change in the thinking patterns of educators, the majority of whom are influenced by the medical route of diagnosis which seeks to highlight the deficits of the individual’s disabilities rather than their capabilities. The social model of disability highlights the struggle of disabled individuals to attain their right for inclusion and become an integral part of society. Inclusive education supports the social model and is meant to promote inclusiveness in all aspects of human life. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development plays a key role in this aspect to ensure equality between all citizens and leave no one behind. The Kingdom of Bahrain has always paid great attention to all vulnerable groups within the community and especially people with disabilities and special needs as these groups are an integral part of the community and its overall development. Furthermore, learning disabilities are on the increase. Some areas on a global level, have witnessed a significant increase of children with learning difficulties, for example a Malaysian Conference for Learning Disabilities have seen an increase from 57,483 to 100,180 within 4 years. As such, inclusive education has become more crucial than ever. It is vital then, that there are necessary steps in place to improve the level of teacher competence and readiness in school classrooms through customized teacher training programs. At a local level, The Ministry of Labor & and Social Development is the primary caregiver to these vulnerable groups including people with disability and special needs. They provide them with the welfare offering and many services to support their employment, training, education, guidance consultations, conducting specialized researches, psychiatric diagnosis, physical, functional therapy and financial disbursement for their caregivers as disability allowance. The ministry has also dedicated a special hotline facilitated with video call and sign-language for on-spot support. The Ministry of Education has also taken steps to maintain equality and harmony among the community. They have initiated processes to integrate people with disabilities and special needs in public schools with a special focus on preparing the appropriate environment in terms of awareness, facilities and special training in dealing and interacting with disabled people. Many schools accept special needs cases without discrimination and provide training and development programs for teachers to integrate these children with other students. There are around 175 schools that have implemented the special education programme in different levels of education set by the Ministry. At REACH, a core service which we provide is providing consultations for schools to integrate students with learning delays and behavior difficulties, and this service is crucial for the students to progress and develop alongside their peers. Besides education, there are also other initiatives to integrate and empower people with disabilities and special needs in different fields including the sport field led by the Bahrain Olympic Committee and Bahrain Sports Federation for Disabilities. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced that it has started implementing a decision obligating every company with 50 or more workers to hire one worker with special needs. This decision has contributed to reducing the percentage of cases of unemployed individuals with disabilities who are qualified to work and registered in the ministry. Many organizations have already implemented inclusivity, but inclusivity, if implemented on a nationwide basis, would require many years of intentional planning, and there would need to be quite a lot of consensus around it. There is much greater awareness of the special skills people with autism bring; however it still takes special employers willing to go the extra mile to hire them. My question here is, is this enough? What’s important to remember is that although there is a lot of talk on awareness and inclusivity and there are various initiatives that are in place, the ultimate goal needs to be acceptance. With autism awareness month upon us in April, we need to make sure this conversation does not last a day or a month but that it is a conversation we are continuing to have – a conversation that we are doing something about. Let’s listen to autistic individuals and individuals with special needs and learn from their stories. Acceptance from society at large is needed to help them thrive. Let’s make awareness, education, inclusivity and most importantly…acceptance our goal Post Views: 75

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