The Learning Center for the Deaf (LCD) has been established, in 2002, with the dream of providing a proper program for young deaf children and their families, which will enable the deaf child to have a good start in life and a better future. During a preparatory phase of the programs, Hussein Ismail, who is a deaf man himself, achieved his Doctorate Degree in Educational Administration, in the year 2000. The Association of Parents for the Deaf, who saw in Hussein hope for the future of their children, since education for deaf children terminated at the Brevet level (9th grade), asked the President of Lebanon to decorate Hussein with a “Medal of Deserve” in recognition of his achievement.
The decoration ceremony allowed Hussein to be seen by many of the young deaf people who came from different schools and saw in him a role-model. One of the deaf students told him: “I used to be certain that obtaining Brevet Diploma was the highest goal to reach, but now I ask myself why can’t I become like you, Dr. Hussein?”
In fact, Wissam was the reason Hussein felt the responsibility to give young deaf people the chance which he was given by his foster-father the late Rev. A. Andeweg (Father Andy) and the organization that supported him, to reach the same level of Education that he has achieved.
Due to the absence of classes beyond Brevet (High School Program) in the schools for the deaf in Lebanon, Hussein found it necessary to personally established a special High School setting for the Deaf which will accept students from all the schools for the Deaf who wished to continue in the academic realm. It was a courageous decision, knowing that such an intervention for a High School is much more expensive than that of Primary and Intermediate education. But God is fairer to His children than people and He made this event possible for the deaf young children in Lebanon; and today Wissam, who has enrolled the High School Program and graduated in 2006. He had a wish to become a medical doctor. We have no doubt that this will be realized. Similar challenges have faced the Early Intervention Program.
The difficulty was due to the fact that the concept of Early Intervention in Lebanon was thought to be limited to having the child fitted with hearing aids early, and having him go to a speech therapist one to three times a week. No one appeared to wondered what would be the use of the hearing aid if the parents are not taught to check it on a daily basis and are shown how to help the child to make use of a proper listening environment. Nor did they appear to think to teach the family how to make use of the natural situations at home to provide rich communication, language and listening possibilities. No one considered the fact that families need to deal with their feelings by discussing them with a counselor and by providing them chances to see other families and learning at first hand from their experience. No one thought of the needs of some families to be taught Sign Language to have better communication with their child. No one believed that families deserve to be instructed in subjects such as hearing tests, modes of communication, etc.
And finally no one thought the families need to have a reference library to refer to whenever they panic due to all the new matters they have to deal with. All these missing services are an important requisite for a proper Early Intervention Program.
We learned that the best people, who can inform families about the importance of our program and the richness of our services, are not the professionals, but the families themselves. We get thrilled to hear from the families that they feel very good to be at the LCD; while still being professionally treated. The number of families is growing and families are coming to us from a far distance. The LCD has also launched the initiation of the Outreach Program in order to help the families in distant areas, where help is greatly needed because of the neglect of the children which is due to poverty and lack of awareness of many families. This program has promperly launched during 2007.
An Awareness Campaign on the importance of Early Detection has initiated. The campaign became possible after two years of waiting for funding. It will bespread throughout the country encouraging families to detect hearing loss as early as possible. LCD will help inform the families about the steps they need to make in case of suspicion. Once hearing loss is confirmed, the Early Intervention Program at the LCD has many services that can help families from distant areas such as follow up tests, continuous guidance, John Tracy Clinic Correspondence Books which are followed through distance learning, lectures in distant areas, and the support group.
The Integrated Nursery also has been started (2003). The next setting for the Nursery is a special class for the deaf babies and young children who will later enter schools for the Deaf. The Bilingual/Bicultural Approach is applied in this part of the Nursery with one deaf teacher who will promote Sign Language and one hearing teacher who will promote the spoken language. This class will be important since the aim of the Nursery is to be a diagnostic Nursery where we can study the best placement for the deaf child.
The ideas for development and improvement in the future are many, such as providing an audiological section, subtitling of videos for families in Arabic, and adding a Sign Language corner for deaf parents, translating important books to Arabic as such sources are almost non-existent, and providing professional training for the approaches used in therapy, etc. But looking back, we realize that the support of people who believe in the work of the LCD has already helped realize many accomplishments, which took place during the past three years.
Therefore there is no doubt that the LCD will be able to improve existing services and provide other needed ones in due time. There is a strong feeling that God is surely behind this project because of all that has been provided until now. Buying of the LCD’s premises (the building), which is a big proof of His presence in times of financial difficulties world-wide, allowed us to accommodate a number of programs within a loving and caring atmosphere, created by the staff, the students and the families.