‘Functional Learning is Functional Living’: Aliya Ahmed shares how her personal story inspired the Functional Learning Programme

Aliya Ahmed’s passion transformed into her professional work two years ago when she started the Functional Learning Programme. The programme provides one hour long sessions for parents to learn techniques to help with their child’s developmental needs. With non-verbal activities and mind-stimulating toys, there is an opportunity for parents and their children to connect with one another.    

Ahmed did functional learning with her own children and saw how positive it was for her family. This inspired her to open her home and offer therapy to families who could not afford it. 

“The most important thing is to understand that every child can learn no matter their race, their nationality, their background, their religion, their disability, function learning enables all parents and all children to have that belief that every child can learn to their best ability,” Ahmed said. 

Before You Press’ Functional Learning Programme became what it is today, it was Ahmed’s university research project. She chose to do a school-funded project with a special needs college. After working in schools with children for five years, Ahmed was ready to pursue the next step. 

“I didn’t plan it so it was very natural,” Ahmed said. “I didn’t create functional learning. It was something I was delivering to people who needed it and it became a demand.”

Now, Ahmed has over 10 years of experience being a family therapist, working in special education and with disabled children. 

According to the You Press website, Functional Learning is a tool that was developed in 1976 by Dr. Geoffrey Waldon. Ahmed combined this research with her own experiences to start the Functional Learning Programme. The Islamic Relief Worldwide organisation heard Ahmed’s personal story and became a sponsor of the Functional Learning Programme. 

“It’s very important to me because I’m also Muslim and Islamic Relief Worldwide has always been something I’ve always donated to,” Ahmed said. “It’s quite hard to believe I am a part of a bigger organisation which I have donated to since I was a young adult. I still haven’t got my head around it.”

The children and their families who utilise the Functional Learning Programme come from many different backgrounds and with that comes barriers. The greatest challenge is learning each child’s “type of play” and using that information to help with their development, according to Ahmed.  

“The most important feedback I get from the children and from parents is that functional learning can be very emotional,” Ahmed said. “I recently did a workshop and I had a person in there start crying while we were doing the workshop. It became very overwhelming for them. … Functional learning is all about letting go of your emotions and taking it all in.” 

In the future, Ahmed hopes more families sign up for the Functional Learning workshops and implement what they learn into their home routines. 

“We know it’s not going to be a magic wand,” Ahmed said. “We’re not changing [people]. We are helping the children or young adults have the best stability. So that’s why we call it functional learning. It’s functional living.”

To participate in a Functional Learning Programme workshop, visit the ‘Projects’ tab on the You Press website, go to the ‘Functional Learning’ information box and press the ‘Apply Now’ button.

By: Naomi Washington, Creative Writer and Digital Media intern