Children with special needs could become contributing citizens to society and should be given a chance, said Uwe Maurer, a father of a developmentally challenged girl and the founder of Taiwan Sunshine, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the special needs population.
“Most of the special needs children are often told, you can’t do this and you can’t do that. But I think that’s wrong. I don’t ever want my daughter to think that way about herself,” said Maurer, whose daughter Matthea was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called cri-du-chat syndrome at 10 months of age.
Maurer, the principal of Morrison Academy’s Bethany campus, said children with special needs are often pigeonholed as recipients of charity and pity, but in fact they can be contributing members of society and should be integrated into the mainstream as much as possible.
‘I AM A HERO’
To give special needs children and their families a chance to participate in athletic events and enjoy a day of family fun, Maurer and his wife, MaDonna Maurer, along with the help of friends and volunteers from the expatriate community, on Saturday held the first “I am a Hero” games.
During the games, 68 children with a range of disabilities were invited to take part in various field events at the Affiliated Experimental Elementary School of the Taipei Municipal University of Education.
All the athletes participated in long jumps, kick ball, baseball and other track races. Doctor Dog, an organization that trains dogs for therapeutic purpose, also brought several canines to cheer up the participants.
“I think this is a wonderful event because I feel boys need to have more contact with world,” said Lin Hsien-sheng (林顯勝), a father of two eight-year old twin boys with autism.
MaDonna said after her family moved to Taiwan from China in 2006, they found Taipei to be a friendly place for children with special needs, but that it lacked a network of support for parents with special needs kids.
She said that at first she and her husband would meet other parents with children with cri-du-chat syndrome in restaurants, but these locations were never ideal because the children did not have a place to play.
The desire for social networking or parental support prompted the couple to rally a few good friends to establish the Taiwan Sunshine Center.
Located in the Gongguan area of Taipei, the center, free of charge to the public, was designed to offer classes and therapy services for children with special needs.
The center also houses a resources library for parents to read up on the latest research related to their children’s disabilities as well as to socialize and exchange views, said Larry and Whitney Dilley, friends of the Maurers, who are helping spearhead the program.
In the future, the center will also invite speakers to give seminars on various special needs related topics.
“We want to give the parents a sense of hope to know they are not alone and that they and their children are accepted,” Whitney said.
For more information about the center, volunteer opportunities or the “I am a Hero” games, see www.taiwansunshine.org or call (02) 8369-2953.