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Recovery and Resiliency: How CMHA WW’s Inclusion Support Services Helped the El Mohamad Family

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Imagine fleeing your home country in the midst of increasing tension and hostility. Travelling from Palestine to Lebanon to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in hopes of one day living in Canada. You start to grow your family in UAE and your daughter is born with profound hearing loss in both ears. When your daughter is 1 year old she has her first surgery for a Cochlear Implant in her right ear. Three months later she has a second surgery to receive the implant for her left ear. Thanks to your tremendous courage, resiliency and determination in navigating a medical system in a new country your hope and belief, that your daughter would be able to hear has became a reality.

This is El Mohamad Family’s story. In October 2017, Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington was introduced to the El Mohamad family through the Inclusion Support Services program. Being new to Canada the El Mohamad family wanted to provide their daughter, Haya, with an opportunity to be with other children and enrolled her in a child care program in Guelph. Due to Haya not being able to hear until she was 18 months old, Inclusion Support Services were put in place to support her overall social, emotional and developmental growth and success. Referrals for Resource Consultation, Speech Consultation, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Social Development Consultation were made to support Haya.

Having to move multiple times is an experience shared by many refugees and the El Mohamad family is no exception. By the time Haya was 3 years old she had lived in a hotel in Vancouver, a hotel in Guelph and finally an apartment in Guelph where the family started to establish a home in their new surroundings. As a result, when Haya first started at the child care program, she appeared very overwhelmed and uncertain of her safety and ability to feel secure in this new setting. Eventually she was able to bond with one of her teachers, however she remained highly anxious in the pre-school program and would shadow her teacher at all times. Haya’s level of fear and anxiety was so high that she would follow every move her teacher made and would become very distraught if her teacher had to leave the room for any reason. Another challenge that Haya experienced was that she would need to bring all her belongings with her every time she left the classroom, even if it was to go outside to play. Needing to carry all of her things with her (her knapsack; her spare pair of shoes and change of clothing) meant that she was not able to play.

The Consultants helped the family and child care Educators understand that Haya’s need to bring all of her belongings with her was most likely linked to the stressful experience of having to move multiple times and the uncertainty that that would have created regarding her ability to trust that any place that she resided would be stable and/or permanent. Her experience had taught her to be “ready to go at any time”. As a way of acknowledging that she was feeling this way but also giving her support to be able to be calm and engage with her peers, a child size suitcase with wheels was purchased for her to use at her child care program. This allowed the child to pack and carry all of her belongings but gave her a degree of freedom to be with her peers.

The El Mohamad family are now settled in their home in Guelph and Haya will be starting Kindergarten next year. She has grown in all areas of her development and has increased the number of hours and days that she attends her pre-school program. She is now able to play independently of her teachers and she enjoys the experience of learning new things and interacting with her peers.

The El Mohamad family plan stay in Canada and are looking forward to the new adventure of Haya starting in public school. Support agencies and services, including the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington, and other support services within Growing Great Kids in Child Care, will continue to be available for the family based on the needs and goals that they have set for themselves and their daughter.

To learn more about Inclusion Support Services click here.

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