Established in 2007 by Chairman Mrs. Amaal Al Sayyer, the Kuwait Association for Learning Differences (KALD) came to being with help from volunteers and funding by Masharaee Al Khair and Kuwait Projects Company (Holding). A social welfare association, KALD collaboratively works towards helping all individuals, especially students in private schools in Kuwait, who have learning differences (LD) and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Through setting up awareness programs, training courses, and other educational activities, KALD has provided a solution to many who had given up in the past.
Rather than labeling the students as those with learning difficulties, KALD members have agreed on the term ‘learning difference’. Simply put, KALD believes that the targeted students are intelligent people and the only difference between them and other students is that they have their own way of learning – thus a difference, and not a difficulty. Over the last few years, KALD has held a Distinguished Teachers Award that acknowledges those who teach children with learning difficulties/differences in both public and private schools and presents that best teacher, according to certain criteria, with a monetary and nonmonetary award. We chatted with KALD’s Chairman, Mrs. Amaal Al Sayyer to learn more about KALD, the award and future plans.
What first motivated you to establish KALD?
In 1999 my son was diagnosed with ADHD. In spite of his intelligence and lovely character, his KG teachers chose to focus on his hyperactivity which annoyed them. As a result, he was kicked out of school at the age of three. Watching him prepare his small bag for the next school day broke my heart. Unfortunately, this scenario was repeated in elementary school: He was suspended from school and had to stay home for three months.
Fighting for my son’s right to get an education that accommodated his needs opened my eyes to a scary fact that my son is not alone in this predicament. I vowed then to do something that would help the large number of children and families that are suffering silently.
In brief, what are learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Learning disabilities are neurologically-based processing problems. These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math. They can also interfere with higher level skills such as organization, time management, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention.
ADHD is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with function or development.
What is KALD’s mission?
KALD strives to be the leading institution capable of creating a difference in the lives and education of students with learning disabilities and/or ADHD in private schools in Kuwait. Those two conditions are related since out of every 10 students with a learning disability, 2 of them have ADHD and of every 10 students with ADHD, 2 of them have a learning disability.
What do you think is the greatest misconception that people in Kuwait have about students with learning differences?
Many people think that students with learning differences are mentally challenged. In fact, the IQ test is the first step in identifying them; they should have average or above average intelligence. Thomas Edison, Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg are examples of geniuses with learning differences.
How does the KALD Distinguished Teachers Award make a difference to KALD’s greater mission?
Good teachers can make a difference not only in their students’ education but also in their lives and future. Alexander The Great once said, “I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.” Students with LD and ADHD are intelligent people who need passionate, qualified teachers to help them utilize their points of strength and achieve success.
What makes this award special?
We like to consider the award as the jewel in the crown of KALD’s activities that aim at fulfilling its mission for many reasons. First, it was launched with the blessings of His Highness, the Amir. The Award ceremony takes place under his patronage. Second, the award is the first of its kind in the Arab world. It celebrates the teachers who are dedicated to students with LD and ADHD. Third, it gives us the chance to show our gratitude to the expiates who left their countries to come to Kuwait and help the development of education in our country.
What’s next for KALD?
To join efforts with the government and establish a center for the development of education for students with learning differences in private schools in Kuwait, is a goal we would like to achieve. We believe that solutions of many environmental, technological, economical challenges will come out of those beautiful minds.
Follow KALD on Instagram @kaldkuwait for more information.