How did you become interested in studying children with developmental disabilities?
When my son was three years old, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). At that time, I wanted to learn how to help my son and the most practical route for me was to go back to school and become educated on developmental disabilities. I pursued a graduate degree in special education and child development, specifically focusing on autism, its treatment and its effects on families.Discuss your work in the Ivory Coast.
A few years ago, a friend of mine who is a physician told me about an African non-governmental agency, Javad Nurbakhsh Foundation, that works to establish medical care and hospitals in West Africa, specifically the Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast is a developing country, and I am also from a developing country, Iran. I am keenly aware that in developing countries children with developmental disabilities receive a very sub-optimal type of care at best and are completely invisible at worst. I offered my help in addressing the needs of children with developmental disabilities to Javad Nurbakhsh and received an enthusiastic response, and so our relationship formed.
My visits to the Ivory Coast are usually divided into two parts: observational study and training. The observational study portion of my visit helps me to understand the state of care and treatment of children with developmental disabilities in the Ivory Coast. I spend a good part of my time visiting children’s centers, schools, orphanages and institutions for children with disabilities. The second part of my visit focuses on training teachers, nurses, physicians and other health officials on how to care for children with developmental disabilities. I also help them explore the rights of these children, their inclusion in the community, and offer ways for them to spread awareness about developmental disabilities.
What do you hope to accomplish through your visits to the Ivory Coast?
I hope to continue building awareness of developmental disabilities, encouraging inclusion and exploring children’s rights. Through my work I hope to establish a grass-roots community effort to support children with developmental disabilities. Additionally, I will continue to strive to understand the cultural perceptions and treatment of disabilities. My next visit will focus on a series of training sessions on the treatment of autism and related disorders. Most importantly, I hope my work will benefit children with developmental disabilities and their families in some small way.
Discuss your approach to research and service.
I do not see research as separate from service. The ultimate goal of
research is to serve people. I try to understand the people I study in
order to be of service to them. DePaul has been a great source of
support for my work. Its mission of social justice and service makes
this work a natural part of my academic life. I am certainly very
grateful to be working in this academic community and to have the
support of my colleagues, college and the university at large.
How do students respond when they hear about your efforts in the Ivory Coast?
Students respond with a lot of enthusiasm and interest. Several have expressed a keen interest in accompanying me on my visits and volunteering.
What courses do you teach at DePaul?
I have taught a variety of courses in the past six years, focusing on child development, special education, children’s behavior, autism and developmental disabilities.
What is your favorite aspect of teaching at DePaul?
The students at DePaul are great. They are serious and have definite goals for their future. I also enjoy that most DePaul students have a clear sense regarding their own values and humane aspirations.