Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why is Sarah silent. . . (part 1)

By Kirsten Nour Namskau

I’m specialized as a teacher for children with learning-disabilities. (Of all kind. . . . ) I have developed a special method, taken from my different educations and it works better than anything . . . .
(I’m not talking abt. Special Schools for disabled children, but the Spec.Ped. teacher in an ordinary school.)
I have discussed the matter of so called “Special Pedagogical teachers training” with colleagues and we all agree in that it goes more in to act like a private teacher for the child, revise the lesson and help them with the homework.
I don’t like to “play” with the problem; I like to go to the source of the problem and try to solve the problem from there, so much as possible.
So when I work with a child, I don’t use books or go through syllabus or review what they have done in the lesson or have as home-work.
I work with the problem, whatever the problem is . . .
Here in Egypt, they have just started to understand the needs of these kinds of teachers and schools.
I met Sarah 15 years ago, when I worked in a school little outside Cairo. (At that time it was nothing like this in Egypt at all.)
The owner of the school was interested in my way of dealing with “problem-children” so he asked me if I could try to help Sarah.

Sarah didn’t talk.

She was 6 years old and I discovered very fast, that she was extremely intelligent. She understood English and followed an ordinary lesson, did her homework perfect and was the best in class in almost everything.
But ….. She didn’t talk
My supervisor told me that she was not mute but had been witness to her parent’s death when she was 3 years old. No one really knew what had happened, but since then she had not said a word. Now she lived with her uncle and aunt.

“Well,” I said “then the problem starts from the time when she was 3 years old and I have to go back to that time to begin the recovering of the problem.”
I was with Sarah 2 hours every day during school-time.
The first time I met her, she was in front of me and I asked her for her name. I knew she would not answer, but I repeated the question several times as I also repeated my name.

I started to hum the question: “ I am Nour and who are you?…..I am Nour and who are you? . . . . “
I discovered that the humming relaxed her, so I took her up on my lap. She leaned her head to rest it on my shoulder and I started to rock her as I was humming children’s songs, riddles and rhymes.
Every time I “said” something to Sarah, I either sung it or whispered it.
I started every lesson by humming: “ I am Nour and who are you? . . . . I am Nour and who are you?”
One day as she was sitting on my lap, she suddenly leaned her head towards my ear and whispered very low: “ Sarah.”
I gave her a hug and said: “ I love you, Sarah.”

After three weeks, I tried to go one step further and found crayons and paper.
I whispered to her: ” Draw the most beautiful you know . . . flowers, animals, nature or colors only. The most beautiful color you have. “
She made a drawing of yellow and green. Shaped as circles and “clouds”.(The colors of harmony and love.)
I whispered: “ Can you make a drawing with the ugliest colors you have?”
She made a drawing using red, Shaped as lines and curls with rough hand. She continue and continue as she started to cry like a wounded dog and her hand got more and more rough until the paper tore under her crayon.
Although I repeatedly whispered: “ Sarah, it’s ok. You don’t have to continue. I agree with you, it is indeed an ugly color.”

It ended with that I physically had to stop her, taking the crayon from her. I took her on my lap and started to hum on her favorite song. Slowly she came to rest.
I picked up the pieces of her drawings and put them in her file.

Some time later, I asked her to draw mom and dad.
She drew her mom with big skirt and pout.
“I understand” I whispered “Your mom often use to take you on her lap and kiss you.”
Sarah nodded her head vividly and kissed the drawing over and over again.
She drew her dad with long, strong arms and a big smiling mouth in his face.
I whispered: “Dad used to take you in his arms and make you laugh, Sarah. Right?”
Again she nodded her head vividly.
She took the drawings of her mom and dad, and started to kiss and kiss the drawings.
She gave me a kiss too, on my cheek as she left for the class.
She appeared happier when she left me that day.
She knew I understood her . . .

(To be continued. . . .)


infinitesimal said...


I love you!

This is what I do too.

I specialize in working with people who have autism, and also traumatized youth.

I am about to get my degree in Rehabilitation Psychology.

I also experience wonderful moments likt this with people that nobody else can get through to.


I am your fan, and will link you to my own blog

Wow, Sarah
You did good work.


Kirsten N. Namskau said...

Thank you, my new friend

Anonymous said...

We need many more teachers like you.

The foster mother named (Omi) from where I adopted my son took the same approach as you. She was given the worst, most terrifying cases of abused and damaged children.

She rocked them, played with them and could communicate with even the moste severely damaged children when no one else could.

It sounds like you and her have a lot in common.

Freddie said...

This post had me on the verge of tears Kirsten.

Looking forward to the continuance.