All Press Releases for February 12, 2014

Rima J. Hatoum, Ph.D., Honored for Accomplishments in Disabilities

As a psychology and special education consultant, Dr. Hatoum helps people with disabilities reach their full potential

With more than 20 years as a consultant, Dr. Hatoum has used her expertise in special education and psychology to improve education

    TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA, February 12, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Rima J. Hatoum, Ph.D., a psychology and special education consultant, has been recognized by Worldwide Branding for showing dedication, leadership, and excellence in her profession.

With more than 20 years as a consultant, Dr. Hatoum has used her expertise in special education and psychology to improve education and related services for children with disabilities in several developing countries. Her duties include: (1) Providing the necessary accommodations and supports to help children with disabilities benefit from education, gain independence, participate in inclusive communities, and enjoy a quality of life similar to that available to all people; (2) Empowering parents of children with disabilities to advocate for their children's rights; and (3) Training and working with all stakeholders [e.g., school personnel, policy makers, professionals, self-advocates, advocacy organizations, and community organizations] to ensure full participation, equity, opportunity, and inclusion for people with disabilities. Dr. Hatoum has worked in several Arab countries [e.g., Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen]. Since May 2013, she has been involved in the Empower Partnerships for Inclusive Communities Program, a prestigious international development program funded by the U.S. Department of State whose goals are to bolster disability rights and to promote inclusive education worldwide. Within the framework of the program, she has been providing resources, training, and technical assistance to two Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) [a parent advocacy organization and a civil society organization] in order to promote inclusive education in Mongolia, a country that currently lacks a special education infrastructure.

Overall, Dr. Hatoum has been active in the field of disabilities for more than 30 years. She has a broad training and experience background in disabilities and her areas of strength include education of students with significant disabilities, inclusive education, secondary transition, positive behavioral support, teacher education, research, and international development. She taught students without disabilities as well as students with various disabilities at all levels [preschool to adult basic education] in private and public schools, as well as in institutional and forensic settings, for 10 years, in three different countries: Lebanon, the U. K. and the U.S.A.

For seven years, she was a state consultant at the Florida Department of Education (DOE), Bureau of Education for Exceptional Students (BEES), where she was responsible for providing technical assistance and for monitoring statewide programs, including: (1) Programs for students with significant disabilities [severe intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, dual sensory impairments, and multiple disabilities] with emphasis on inclusion, quality-of-life issues, development of communication and functional skills, and positive behavioral support; (2) Programs for students who are homebound or hospitalized due to acute or chronic illnesses, with emphasis on providing the least restrictive service delivery methods for students who are chronically ill, medically fragile, or technology dependent; (3) Programs for exceptional students with limited English proficiency; and (4) Adaptive physical education programs.

In addition, Dr. Hatoum has held university academic and research positions at Florida State University (FSU) and a couple of universities in Lebanon. As a graduate Teaching Assistant, an Adjunct Professor, and later as a Visiting Instructor at FSU, for about six years, she taught a variety of courses in special education using both campus-based and online formats. This included supervision of practicum students and interns. She also designed and implemented in-service teacher/staff education programs as part of her duties at DOE/BEES and later as a consultant for UNESCO, other international agencies, and NGOs.

Dr. Hatoum especially enjoys working with parents and disability advocacy organizations. Since 1998, she has been involved with three Lebanese NGOs: The Lebanese Down Syndrome Association (LDSA), the Youth Association of the Blind, and the Inclusion Network. Her services to these NGOs included updating them on best practices, problem solving with parents, supporting a pioneer inclusive education program in Beirut, providing teacher/staff training programs in Lebanon and other Arab countries, and co-writing a two-year system change grant proposal that was funded by the World Bank at $800,000 and completed in 2007.
Her efforts prompted LDSA to nominate her for the UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize to promote quality education for persons with intellectual disabilities, which she was awarded in December 2009. Her commitment to improving education and related services for children with disabilities in developing countries is the driving force behind her pursuit of international development consulting opportunities.

Her hard work and passion have led to her tremendous success. She traces her interest in the field of disabilities to her elementary school years. At that time there were no educational or related services for children with disabilities in Lebanon, where she grew up. She remembers being concerned and wondering why the two girls with Down syndrome in her neighborhood did not go to school, were not allowed to play outside with their peers, and stayed at home all the time. This fueled her determination to do everything she could to improve their situation.

Dr. Hatoum has a Ph.D. in special education, with minors in educational research and educational administration from Florida State University. She also has a Master of Arts in guidance and counseling, a Teaching Diploma in elementary education, and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the American University of Beirut.

She is qualified to teach children with intellectual, behavioral, physical or visual disabilities, as well as children with severe multiple disabilities or chronic illnesses. She is certified in Applied Behavior Analysis and is a charter member of the Florida Positive Behavioral Support State Training Team. In addition to her recent induction into Worldwide Branding, she is a lifetime member of TASH. In 2012, she was elected to join TASH's Board of Directors for a three-year term and charged with establishing an international committee to expand TASH's global engagement in advocating for equity, opportunity, and inclusion for people with disabilities. On a personal level, she is a lifetime member of the Greek Orthodox Church and she frequently volunteers her services to support non-profit organizations.

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