Overcoming Challenges: Omar’s Journey to Speech and Language Improvement

27 December 2023|JRS Lebanon - Robert Gemayel

Omar*, a seven-year old boy born to Syrian refugee parents in Lebanon.

Omar*, a seven-year-old boy born in Lebanon in 2015, encountered notable obstacles in his speech and language development. Due to the armed conflict in Syria, his family moved to Lebanon in 2012. Although their initial life in Syria was simple and peaceful, the transition brought various problems to the family.

Nevertheless, with the crucial assistance of JRS Lebanon educational initiatives with devoted speech and language therapy, Omar’s ability to communicate started to thrive, enhancing his social connections, academic performance, and self-esteem.

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Omar encountered delays in his speech development, struggling to articulate words clearly and understandably. His family, initially unaware of how to address his verbal difficulties, resorted to repeatedly pushing him to repeat words and put more effort into his speech. Unfortunately, this led to Omar’s reluctance to engage in conversation and avoid socializing with family and friends.

Three years ago, Omar had the opportunity to enroll in JRS Lebanon educational programs as a CBECE (Community-Based Early Childhood Education) student. Currently, he attends the JRS Retention Support program at the Nicolas Kluiters Centre (JRS Jbeil) in the morning and goes to a local public school in Jbeil in the afternoon.

Speech and Language Therapy Intervention

In September 2021, Omar became one of the referred children for the speech and language therapy service provided by JRS Lebanon as part of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) program.

During the initial meeting with Omar’s mother, it became clear that his speech difficulties significantly affected his social life and academic achievements. “Most of the time, his teachers at the public school couldn’t understand his oral expressions,” she claimed.

The tutors in JRS Jbeil noted Omar’s shyness, fear of making mistakes, and challenges with written language tasks. At the age of six, he participated in a speech and language assessment which revealed difficulties in oral language, articulation, and speech as well as challenges in receptive and expressive language.

“He worked hard and accepted the tasks that were given to him. He expressed his difficulties in communicating with others, and he was aware of the problem,” the project speech therapist, Ghazal Hajar, claimed.

“We observed articulation challenges with the sounds of the English letters (s, z, ch, j, k, r) and Arabic letters (ع, غ),” she explained. “He also demonstrated phonological processes in long words, such as sound or syllable omissions. This was making his speech difficult for others to understand.”

“He was able to understand words related to daily life activities but couldn’t adequately express them (semantic confusions / word retrieval problems),” she added. “He could also understand different types of sentences, but it was difficult for him to use well-coordinated sentences sometimes.”

Perseverance and Positive Feedback

With one session per week, the therapy focused on improving articulation, sentence sequencing, phonological awareness, and auditory processing skills. The therapist provided guidance also to Omar’s mother, emphasizing the importance of consistent support with the gradual progress of therapy.

Omar’s parents actively participated in the therapy, diligently practicing exercises and tasks at home, even during periods of lockdown when teletherapy was necessary. Throughout the sessions, Omar displayed improvement and growing motivation. Acquiring the first challenging sound “K” in words and spontaneous speech, greatly boosted his confidence and dedication.

Currently, he has achieved the articulation of most target sounds, enhancing his overall spontaneous speech intelligibility. Furthermore, his narrative skills, phonological awareness, reading abilities, concentration, and attention have shown remarkable progress.

Omar’s tutors and the school principal have all noted his outstanding progress. “His expressive skills have greatly improved, making him more intelligible to others. He has become more talkative, participative, and engaged with his friends, demonstrating enhanced social interactions,” stated his English tutor. In addition, his concentration skills have improved, allowing him to actively participate in class and answer questions.

“He was shy and didn’t participate much in his math lesson. He was less attentive and couldn’t take regular board notes. His ability to concentrate has improved. Despite his uncertainty, he takes the initiative to respond when I ask questions in class,” his math tutor remarked.

The school principal has witnessed him developing self-confidence and stronger relationships with his peers. “We are still working hard to meet all of the goals and ensure that he maintains a high level of progress in spontaneous talks,” she explained.

Gratitude and Transformation

Whenever Omar runs into the School Principal, he says, “Look! I’m having fun with my friends. I have friends now, and you know what? They adore me.”

When questioned about his speech and language therapy, the 7-year-old kid replied, “It’s nice, we play, and I speak better. When I was young, I didn’t want to talk,” he admitted. “I can speak clearly now and I’m feeling better.”

Omar’s mother expressed deep gratitude for the speech and language therapy service, emphasizing the positive changes in her son’s life. His improved speech has boosted his self-esteem and facilitated his integration into a new neighborhood. Omar now eagerly interacts with his new friends, a feat he was unable to achieve before due to his previous speech difficulties.

This student’s journey highlights the transformative power of speech and language therapy. By overcoming significant challenges, he has made remarkable strides in his speech, language, and overall development. With the support of his family, JRS educational programs, and the dedication of his therapist, Omar has experienced positive changes in his social interactions, academic performance, and self-confidence.

His story serves as an inspiration, emphasizing the importance of early intervention and the potential for growth and improvement when addressing speech and language difficulties.


*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

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