Elie Khoury Antonios is a Lebanese man living in Sydney. He is the son of Fouad Naaman Khoury, a well-known poet in the Arab poem society. Elie was born with a chronic disease known as Cerebral Palsy which prevents him from moving. He is fully dependant on a wheelchair to move around.
Cerebral Palsy is a group of permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood. Signs and symptoms vary among people and over time. Often, symptoms include poor coordination, stiff muscles, weak muscles, and tremors. There may be problems with sensation, vision, hearing, swallowing, and speaking.
Even though Elie was born with this chronic disease, he did not let his disability be a liability in his life that prevented him from achieving what he wants. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and then completed his Master’s degree in Research, specializing in studying and providing opportunities for people with special needs in the work field.
Elie now works for the Public Relations and Government Affairs division of Hire Up, a service for people with special needs in New South Wales.
His job focuses on raising awareness on government changes related to services for people with special needs and the problems they may face: “The main goal of our work is to create a comprehensive and incubating community for these people,” he explains.
Elie recalls the time a teacher refused to have him in her school due to his disability. After persistence by his family, the stigma was broken and Elie was allowed to register to the school. “We were persistent to defend his rights not because he is our son, but because he is a human just like all of us.”
Elie goes on to explain that his belongingness to the Lebanese-Australian community had a positive impact on his growth. “I feel like I am surrounded by a big number of people. We have very close relationships with relatives and friends who stand by my parents as support and try to alleviate the pressure on them,” he says.
Elie has many skills and hobbies, as well as a great love for sports; he sees himself as one of the biggest supporters of sports, particularly soccer/football. He even writes about sports in different blogs on the internet.
His family was a major contribution to his journey to accept his reality and find himself. He says, “My family did not hesitate to accompany me to all surgeries and doctor visits, all while making sure I am living a normal life and I still have my own independence as well as building up social relationships.”
One thing that bothered Elie was the way people looked at him when he was young. “I was bothered by the way others would stare at me strangely without even talking to me. I also do not like being looked at as a disabled person that needs to be taken care of. I prefer people seeing me as a normal person with a disability who needs some support to practice daily tasks.”