Ghazala first came to the community center with her family in 2019 in hopes to be involved in Swiss4Lebanons informal education activities. At the time, Ghazala was 7 years old, and, like her elder brother and father, suffered from profound bilateral sensorial hearing loss. Her family, who fled from Syria just before the war in 2010, was unable to afford tending to Ghazala’s hearing condition.
Teachers at our community center welcomed Ghazala and tried as much as possible to involve her in activities, yet any full and active engagement could only happen by first treating Ghazala’s condition. As local staff began to witness similar cases as Ghazala, S4L realized the necessity of opening a special needs classroom in order to cater to children with learning difficulties and special needs. Ghazala was one of the first children to receive assistance. In April 2021, her and two other children visited a specialty hospital in Beirut to assess the level of hearing loss. The doctor presented Ghazala with two options, to first try a high power bilateral hearing aid, yet given the very late intervention, there was a probability the hearing aid would not provide the desired result. In case of the latter, Ghazala would have to undergo the second option, which would be a cochlear implant for improved hearing. Accordingly, it was decided that Ghazala first try the hearing aid for a period of three months in conjunction with intensive speech therapy sessions. If there were signs of limited to no improvement, an implant would be required.
S4L carried out all the necessary measures to ensure that Ghazala’s hearing loss would be gradually improved and restored. A bilateral hearing aid was installed on April 6, 2021, with follow-up consultations to confirm proper usage and handling of the hearing aid. A speech therapist carried out an assessment to detect the level of speech and language disorder associated with Ghazala’s hearing impairment in early June. The assessment showed significant difficulty in the domains of articulation, phonology, and oral language (vocabulary and syntax were limited to one word sentences), and hence, speech therapy sessions were scheduled for Ghazala twice a week. Seven months into working closely with Ghazala, the level of improvement exceeded all expert expectations. Ghazala can now produce phrases of 3-4 words on demand with no visual support. Articulation of the sounds “k, ħ, s” has been attained with visual prompts and the sounds “x, z, r” are in progress. Intelligibility of speech is improved even for some complex and/or long words. Further intervention and support is needed to maintain progress and improve communication. As reinforcement, Ghazala attends the special needs classroom at the community center three times a week where her learning is enhanced.
Ghazala has acquired a stronger sense of self and confidence and she is no longer the timid and cautious girl she used to be. She shows an unyielding commitment and determination to grow despite the hardships and dire living conditions she endures. In the summer of 2021, Ghazala’s mother passed away due to COVID without getting the chance to witness Ghazala’s progress. Her only worry was Ghazala’s future, and her only wish was that she would become empowered through treating her impairment and accessing education.
Ghazala continues to demonstrate true potential and a passion for learning in hopes that she has the brighter future her mother desired for her.
Links to film and documentary:
Schweizer Fernsehen SRF Sendung Mitenand: https://www.srf.ch/play/tv/mitenand/video/libanon---eine-schule-fuer-fluechtlingskinder?urn=urn:srf:video:8ccab300-07bd-4849-a1c1-1ac7781c8003