Maha Memon is a Remedial Therapist. Founder and CEO The Learning Skills (an institution for differently-abled children), social activist, and lifestyle blogger. She talks to in this exclusive interview.

1. In what ways The Learning Skills helping special children?
At its core, The Learning Skills aims to provide special children with an exceptional learning environment regardless of their ability to afford the service. We believe education is a tool that should be accessible to everyone and essential in today’s dynamic world. We strive to provide our students with a safe environment where they can explore, learn and have fun just like other children of their age. We provide a wide range of enriching activities led by experienced instructors.

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2. What led you to begin such a noble school for special children?
Having worked in several private institutions of the city and seeing the way these people take advantage of the desperation of parents of children with special needs and seeing firsthand the way the children are neglected at these institutions, I thought of an initiative to teach, educate and inculcate values in these children through fun activities.

The Learning Skills strongly believes the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. Everyone has a purpose in life and a unique talent to give to others and that is what I aspired to achieve when I founded The Learning Skills.

3. What challenges do the parents of special children face? What will be your advice for them?
In a third-world country like Pakistan where awareness about even basic issues is lacking, there is barely any knowledge of developmental disorders and mental health in our society as well as a lot of stigma for anything out of the ordinary. Parents of special children have to deal with all this as well as the emotional turmoil that comes with these challenges. In addition to this, there are several organizations just waiting to exploit them and capitalize off their desperation. My advice to them would just be to put all their faith in Allah. With prayers patience and love there is nothing on earth that cannot be conquered. It will be a tough road but they are stronger than they will ever realize.

4. In what ways can our society be able to accept people with different abilities?
Our society needs a grave shift in mindset in every aspect of social life otherwise it will be left behind while the rest of the world moves on. I think the least that people can do is just to be kind and compassionate human beings willing to understand and empathize with people with different abilities. It’s the little things that will go a long way in building a more inclusive world.

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5. What were the challenges when you first established The Learning Skills?
The confidence from parents is low only because of the exploitation that they have faced. This field is filled more with people looking to earn quick money than those who want to help others. Gaining trust and support from others is a great challenge that I faced during my initial days of establishing this institution.

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6. Share with us the activities you have done to bring awareness about the needs of people with different abilities?
We as an institution are trying our best to work towards spreading awareness about developmental disabilities and mental health. We’ve held awareness seminars for the youth on topics such as career development, positivity, and inclusivity. We are actively trying to engage society with differently-abled people to the best of our current abilities. Our Mission is to provide special children opportunities to develop the courage necessary in life. We will continue to conduct activities for social change as well as seminars and events to acknowledge special children.

7. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?
My message is that the youth of Pakistan should become empathetic and compassionate individuals. To be accepting of all humans regardless of race, gender, class, or disability. With exposure to new people with unique ideas, individuals may see that they may have more in common than they thought. Increasing familiarity with these differences can alter our perspectives, increase acceptance, and diminish the prejudices that fuel discrimination leading to a happier and more inclusive world.

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