Making an impact
All of us can contribute in our own ways.
My name is Alok and I am a 34-year-old from Bangladesh who has spent the last 12 years working with people with intellectual disabilities.
I am also an avid sports fan and athlete who used to compete in badminton and table tennis at the national level.
Sports and working with people with intellectual disabilities are two of my biggest passions in life. I’m very fortunate to be a coach with Special Olympics Asia Pacific because I get to put my skills and knowledge to use every day, for a meaningful cause.
Over the years, I’ve worked with many children with intellectual disabilities and seen how they’ve blossomed as a result of sports and their involvement with the Special Olympics movement. Working with Special Olympics has enabled me to receive professional training to improve my coaching skills, so that I am better equipped to help these children and young people through sports.
There was a boy whom I used to train with for five years. He has autism and had behavioral issues. Every day, I tried to tackle the issue and slowly, the results started showing. We communicated mainly in sign language. Initially, whenever someone signed to him, he would grab their fingers. Eventually, this became something he would do to strangers in public. It took me a year, but I managed to break this behavioral habit.
He was one of the many children whom I worked with, and I saw how my efforts were making an impact. It is extremely rewarding to see the difference you are making in a child. This is what keeps me going every day.
My interest in helping children with intellectual disabilities first sparked when a friend found out that his child had autism. I couldn’t stop thinking of ways to help my friend, his child and the rest of his family.
Because it isn’t just the children who need our support. Many parents find themselves ill-equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge. So, in addition to training children with intellectual disabilities, I am also a trained counselor for parents. I share with them tips on how to communicate with their children and how to manage when they are misbehaving. Those who are new to the community find these sessions extremely helpful.
In Bangladesh, a lot is being done for the special needs community by the government. There are ongoing efforts to raise awareness and educate the public on people with intellectual disabilities . Two years ago, the level of awareness was nowhere close to what we have today.
I hope for this progress to extend beyond Bangladesh. Globally, we can become an inclusive society. Children with intellectual disabilities are truly special people. They are innocent and such a joy to be around. They welcome us into their world with open arms and without question or condition, and I would like to see the same being done for them. They should be included unconditionally and integrated into society.
I believe the work that professional social workers do plays an important part. But all of us can contribute in our own ways, by volunteering in relevant organizations or providing financial aid. Just start by getting involved in the community and see the impact you can make.