Special Report: Azm-e-Falah

A Glimmer of Hope to Make Special Children Shine Brighter
When a child is diagnosed to have special needs, parents, more often than not, are hit by a sense of tragedy and mourn the loss of potential and normal life for their child. Children with special needs may have developmental delays, medical conditions, psychiatric conditions, and/or congenital conditions. Each family bringing up a special child has different problems and is stormed by countless anxieties and uncertainties regarding the future of their child, which affects the lives of the whole family. To address this helplessness and the lack of guidance on this matter, the Federal Government Educational Institutions (FGEI) Directorate has been working on a project establishing schools for the education of special children. 
More than 25 Special Education Schools have been functioning for more than a decade now with 4,115 students enrolled at present with only 20% students from military backgrounds and 80% from the civil sector. The schools are facilitated by 900 staff members to cater individual needs of every student. Eligible students are admitted through a procedure that starts with a baseline assessment to design students’ individual routines assisted by psychologists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, vocational therapy, sensory integration therapy, and special educators. FGEI makes sure to maintain well-equipped schools to provide individual attention to students with different conditions like Down Syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy.
The schools are devised to equip the students with education as well as skills that will help them become self-sufficient. Psychologists examine the students not only on the basis of their disabilities but attempt to explore their strengths as well. Occupational therapy is being provided for activities to enhance attention span, sitting tolerance, and Activities of Daily Living (ADL) to enable them to live a normal life without having to depend on anyone. Speech therapy is also conducted through music to help the students enjoy the treatment.
The Army Special Education Academy, Rawalpindi, OMUNG Special Education School, Swat, Cholistan Special Education School, Bahawalpur, and Aghosh Special Education, Khariyan, along with numerous other institutes are already exhibiting the results in the form of various graduates entering practical lives in mainstream occupations. Some students graduating from primary grades were even able to continue their secondary and higher education in normal schools. The Director General of FGEI, Major General Muhammad Asghar, envisions the developments of the project saying: “I can see them rising in all segments of society, contributing in various departments, working professionally in a responsible manner. And this is the dream that we are working for… I’m positive that as we integrate this system in future it will prosper and will make steady progress in all the domains of training and education for the special children.”

Army Medical College Strives to Help the Hearing Impaired 
Achild's capacity to develop communication, language, and social skills is most likely to be hampered by hearing loss. Due to difficulty in communication, hearing impaired persons have fewer academic and employment chances. And, as a result of limited access to services and communication challenges, the hearing impaired people mostly grow up socially isolated. Emotional issues are brought on by a loss of self-esteem and confidence. The person not only grows dependent on the family but is also vulnerable to many other misfortunes. Cochlear implants are designed for people with severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss. With this type of hearing loss, the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged and cannot detect sounds properly. A cochlear implant bypasses these damaged hair cells and sends electric signals to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound. However, these implants are very expensive and the surgeries are out of most Pakistanis’ affordability. Army Medical College, Rawalpindi, initiated a project, Azm-e-Falah, with the aim of performing cochlear implant surgery to enable people with hearing impairment to be able to hear through the hearing aid. The project has been operational since 2017. On May 15, 2017, Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Rawalpindi performed the very first cochlear implant surgery successfully on army personnel, who lost his sense of hearing due to the impact of a bomb blast General Qamar Javed Bajwa instructed the availability of the scheme to every citizen of Pakistan to be ensured. Various private and government organizations come forward and provide funds to pay for the cochlear implant devices. The most prominent among them is the Bait-ul-Maal. The device is then planted through a complicated operation conducted by the doctors of CMH. This operation then introduces a whole new sensation that the hearing impaired children are not accustomed to. Completely unaware of the world of sounds and speech, the kids are guided by speech and language pathologists who communicate to them the use of these senses. Azm-e-Falah project guarantees the completion of the whole procedure with minimal charges. Maham, Noor, and Urooj are a few of the numerous cases that received cochlear implant surgery and are finding their way back to a normal life with kids of their age. The continuation of this project is sure to enable many more hearing impaired people to live normal lives and be productive citizens of Pakistan. HH


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