Hope for boy genius as US institute offers help

DUBAI - The story of 17-year-old Sudanese mathematical genius Mamoun El Sheikh Haboub, featured in the Khaleej Times earlier this month, has caught the attention of many in the Sudanese community and others farther afield as the news spread.

By Hani M Bathish And Amira Agarib

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Published: Mon 23 Aug 2004, 9:57 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:20 PM

The Sudanese On-line Discussion Group and the Al Jazeera Satellite Channel have both reported on the case and concerned individuals from the US have called Mamoun’s father in Sudan with promises of help and assistance.

Speaking to Khaleej Times from Sudan, Al Sheikh Haboub Fadelallah, Mamoun’s father said: “Dr Mutawakil called me from the United States on behalf of certain scientific institutions in the US offering to help Mamoun in light of what has been written in the paper. He said they wanted details about his case and would call back. This was five days ago and we are still waiting and hopeful.”

Mamoun is a walking, talking human computer, able to absorb and calculate numbers in billions and trillions all in his head. He can calculate the square and cube roots of almost any number, and yet the school system in his native Sudan has branded him as retarded and autistic.

Mamoun’s early school days were marked by an unwillingness to sit in class with other children of his own age. He would go to the higher classes and looking through the window during math lessons he would solve complex mathematics problems written on the blackboard even before the teacher.

The school system in Sudan, however, was either unable or unwilling to find a place for Mamoun where his skills would be put to good use and where he would get a well-rounded education.

Many gave their opinion on the Sudanese On-line Discussion Group: some suggested Mamoun suffers from Asperger Syndrome (AS) and quoted Barbra L. Kirby’s book on the subject stating that “persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular object of interest.

“By definition, those with AS have normal IQ and many individuals, although not all, exhibit exceptional skill or talent in a specific area. Because of their high degree of functionality and their naivete, those with AS are often viewed as eccentric or odd and can easily become victims of teasing and bullying.”

Others on the discussion group said that both Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were diagnosed with AS long after they passed on. Discussion group members pointed to the fact that children with developmental disorders receive a lot of support through the school system in the United States, that budgets for schools allowed for proper evaluation and placement of such children through intensive behavioural therapy through out their school years.

“There is no place in our schools for psychologists, social workers, speech, physical or occupational therapists, while this is a requirement in almost every school in the United States,” said one of the Sudanese discussion group members, who pointing out that children with autism need special education in a structured environment.

“Unfortunately in Sudan and other Third World countries, other health priorities are usually given the lion’s share of funding, adding to that is the misconception that the problem is purely medical rather than educational,” he continued.

Another letter was from a concerned Sudanese who pointed out that Mamoun was hosted on Sudan TV two years ago and everyone thought he had found the support he needed and said that he was shocked to find Mamoun still searching for the right people to help him make sense of the world around him and be a productive member of society.

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