There are few places in Egypt where disabled children can learn to cope with their disabilities. For the most part, families with disabled children receive little or no support, and the associated social stigma can leave them feeling isolated from their communities.
With most forms of disability, the right therapy can lead to huge improvements in behaviour, relieving the strain on the family, and making it possible for the children to enter mainstream society.
At IR’s Early Intervention and Rehabilitation Centre (EIRC) disabled children can learn new skills while their families learn to deal with their situation.
Mariam was diagnosed deaf when she was nine-months-old. Her mother, Abeer, didn't know how to handle the shock of having a disabled child. "I would hide her because I was ashamed of the hearing aids", she says.
Abeer turned to IR’s EIRC for help, and there, Mariam was able to learn to speak, read and write.
Mariam's little sister, Amal, was also born deaf. Second time round Abeer was better equipped to cope and Amal started attending the EIRC project along with her older sister. Mariam now helps Amal understand and pronounce words.
The centre has had a big effect on Abeer's confidence: "I can support my children much better now. I know how to cope with the difficulty of having disabled children. I feel happy about my life, my husband and my children. The EIRC centre has had a huge effect on my family and me.
“I hope that both my daughters will one day join suitable schools and receive a good education."
Ayah has multiple disabilities; she is deaf and suffers from mental retardation. Her mother, Wafaa, had no hope she would ever be able to speak or care for herself.
Ayah began attending the EIRC project where she receives speech therapy and educational sessions. She can now speak, explain herself and even write a few words. She is also more dexterous and even helps her mother at home
Mahmoud is five-years-old and has cerebral palsy. There is no cure, but with the right therapy he will be able to improve the control he has over his limbs.
At the moment his mother, Hala, has to carry him most of the time as he is very clingy and does not like being separated from her.
Looking after Mahmoud is taxing. Relatives rarely visit because Mahmoud's condition makes him hyperactive. He shouts and moves around uncontrollably much of the time.
After several sessions at the EIRC, Mahmoud has become more aware of things around him. He now helps with housework and his behaviour has improved considerably.
He can stand and walk with little assistance or support, and has begun making his own decisions about what to wear.
Hala has also benefited in other ways from EIRC, as she now learns handicrafts at the centre.