In April 2015, it was reported that more than 2,000 people residing in Kuwait are diagnosed with autism. The disorder, identifiable in children between 30 months and 8 years of age, requires specialized attention and care. Abeer Al Safran has been responding to this need in society since 1999 by co-founding Abeer2 Voluntary Team for people with special needs.
Al Safran is a Kuwaiti mother of four who feels very passionate about aiding those with autism and people with special needs. She holds a Master’s Degree in Private Education and Autism Disorder and is currently pursuing a PhD in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In addition to her academic background, Al Safran has 18 years’ experience in the private education field, whereby she has dealt with many cases of individuals with special needs..
In light of World Autism Day on Saturday April 2, 2016, bazaar decided to spread awareness in support of this cause by conducting an interview with Al Safran about the charitable Abeer2 and the noble work that they do.
Do you believe that we have a severe awareness problem in Kuwait with regards to children with special needs? If so, how can we change that?
Unfortunately, people with special needs and their families are subjected to difficulties in Kuwait. There is a lack of a clear educational policy and specialized curriculum for each individual with special needs. As a result, they feel isolated within their communities, as people don’t understand their needs or abilities.
This is especially true for those who are above the age of 21, as there is a shortage of educational support. This places a need for qualified individuals who can support those with special needs and help them explore their capabilities and hobbies. This way, the community can begin to accept who they are by understanding their differences and needs. Educating ourselves is the first step towards helping people with special needs reach their true potential.
How have the volunteer group’s efforts evolved since its inception in 1999?
In 1999, Abeer2 began to provide services that were different than those you would find at institutions or schools. Throughout the years, we have continued to develop our programs to ensure that we deliver the best support possible. For instance, we have a strong focus on evolving their conversational skills, behavior, pronunciation and many other important everyday requirements that we overlook in our daily lives. We also encourage sports-related activities, such as horseback riding and bowling. Socializing is also important, whereby we plan trips both locally and abroad, like camping.
As our efforts have evolved, we have become a stronger team. This would not have been possible without the support and cooperation of parents and external organizations. Hand in hand, we have fueled our determination to continue to provide the best services that we can seven days a week, including public holidays.
What are the main duties of the volunteer group?
We do not neglect the needs of the parents in this journey. Abeer2 provides counseling services to reach convenient solutions for problems that they face. No matter what, we are always ready to provide the support and assistance needed for whoever seeks it.
How does Abeer2 make a difference in the everyday lives of autistic children?
I believe that it is the environment we provide that makes a difference. We work collectively to provide a fixed and specialized place where they can learn, play, and spend enjoyable and productive times with their friends. We are all committed to our roles and have a lot of faith and passion in what we do.
What are some of the group’s greatest achievements since it began its efforts?
The achievements that our children with autism have accomplished are infinite. They have achieved so much and have conquered their challenges. They have made us very proud on both a local and international level! For instance, they won the Olympic Games for the Disabled in North Africa and also participated in many exhibitions and events where they displayed their artistic capabilities. They are not disabled – they’re gifted.
What is Abeer2 planning for Autism month this April?
Coinciding with World Autism Awareness Day on the 2nd of April, the teams, in collaboration with GUST and Horizon FCB advertising agency, have started a campaign to support Abeer2’s efforts through donations and volunteers. We will also hold lectures on ASD and showcase artwork created by the autistic individuals who are a part of the Abeer2 family. I strongly urge businesses to support us, especially since World Autism Awareness Day is around the corner. I am confident that there will be many helping hands throughout this campaign.