New Adaptations in the class environment give students new opportunities to thrive at school

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“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

Many complaints were made about Amir at school, that’s when Narmeen– Ameer’s mother- realized a problem was looming ahead on her son’s path at school. Amir, a ten year old boy in his fifth grade; was described as a hyper-active student who rapidly gets hostile over fights with his brothers, which makes his mother and teachers label him “aggressive”. Narmeen became aware of Amir’s problem, so she started by following up his academic performance with his teachers and the social counselor at school.

Amir is nervous most of the times, his reactions abrupt instantly; he faces lots of problems in making friends at school which affected his confidence. Amir’s teacher says he is undisciplined with a high pitch of sound and doesn’t pay attention. He is very much hyperactive and utters words that are not relevant to the lesson, which makes his teachers scold him all the time. He received verbal warnings due to his carelessness, annoying attitude and violations of school rules.

All his teachers expressed their dis-satisfaction and annoyance from Amir because he doesn’t sit down on his chair during classes. The heavy load of homework and hefty assignments Amir was given were an overburden for him, just making things worse. Things went downhill with Amir, which reflected negatively on his academic performance and left him with low grades in reading, writing, comprehension and mathematics.

His mother’s close observation did not help in any advancement. Amir’s performance stooped and he was seen as the troublemaker with poor discipline, laziness and bad behavior. No one paid attention to the bright aspects in his personality and his magic in drawing.

“I felt that I was losing my son, and my duty as his mom is to help him. Fortunately, the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre intervened through the implementation of a project in Saint George’s school that aimed at helping the Jerusalemite students who may be potentially diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Syndrome (ADHD) through embracing their difference and developing individual educational plans for each one of them”, Narmeen said. The aforementioned disorder is described as a neurological disorder that is common in children below 12 years old and is linked with hyperactivity and impulsivity.

His mom accepted to register her son in the program. The program’s team monitored Amir’s behaviors through a series of observations in basic subjects such as (Arabic language, English language and Mathematics). Amir’s parents were also interviewed to talk about their son’s birth history; his mother’s pregnancy and delivery. This was followed by a questionnaire to be filled about the social and medical history of the family. Connor’s test was run in two different environments -an American Scale that assesses children’s problem behaviors, particularly symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Connor’s test is commonly known as comprehensive and accurate test, measuring the behavior of children in both: home and school. Connor’s test focuses on six aspects: Inattention, Hyperactivity/Impulsivity, learning problems, executive functioning, defiance/aggression & peer relations. After passing all these steps, a comprehensive report is to be delivered where a multi-disciplinary committee conclude to diagnose the student with ADHD.

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Using the same test, 110 cases of male and female students were suspected with ADHD in 7 Jerusalemite schools: St. George’s School, Hidaya School, Noor Alquds School, Rawdet Al-Zuhour School, Lady of Pilar School, St. Demiana School and the Inclusive Princess Basma School. ADHD prevalence rates of males to females are 3:1 globally. Throughout JPBC intervention, 70 cases were recommended to have required adaptations into the classroom environment, for example moving the student to the front desk will help in limiting distraction, in addition to customizing the assignments and exams to suit Amir’s abilities. Moreover, psyco-social sessions were conducted with parents on how to deal with their child. As a result to the new accommodations, Amir began to thrive in this enhanced environment and eventually had some control over his social behavior.

Narmeen is satisfied with the remarkable adaptations recommended by the team of JPBC. “The teacher became fully aware of Amir’s condition and showed concern in applying the endorsed adaptations so she prepared the exams for Amir by writing each question on a single page in large clear font, thus minimizing any disturbance that might occur to Amir. She also encouraged him to use colorful cards when participating during the class. All these adjustments helped to improve Amir’s abilities, limited the kid’s fidget in his seat and reduced his drifting off during class. Amir witnessed massive shift in his accumulative grade jumping from fifties to seventies.

Results have shown great improvement in the pro-tests in comparison to the results of the pre-tests run prior the JPBC intervention. “Amir became more committed to handing over his worksheet, his handwriting improved and became more understood, and he even started to use a notebook to remind himself of the tasks he has. At the same time, special care was given to Amir’s talent in drawing angles and tiny details clearly, which changed what teachers used to think of him.  He became known as the “painter” instead of the old label the“troublemaker”.

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Alongside the intervention at school, the JPBC provided all the potentially diagnosed students with ADHD a package of comprehensive rehabilitation services. For instance, Amir received 3 occupational therapy sessions, in addition to 18 music therapy sessions, which noticeably helped to improving his attitude towards the better. The sessions reflected positively on Amir, who became more patient; recently he asked his mom to buy him “Tableh-percussions” as he enjoyed the experience in music therapy and became more patient.

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The intervention in St. George’s School comes under the project of improving the living conditions of people with disabilities implemented in East Jerusalem, and funded by the European Union and Diakonia. The project also included capacity building for the educational staff where workshops were held in schools for teachers to introduce them to ADHD and to the best practices to deal with children with all their differences in classs.