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Al Jalila Foundation to help special needs children in UAE

Al Jalila Foundation promotes education inclusion through new programme

Image Credit: Carolina D’souza/Gulf News
Dr Abdul KareemSultan AlOlama |CEO of the Foundation
Gulf News

Dubai: Al Jalila Foundation has announced a nation-wide programme to increase the current low level of inclusion in mainstream schools.

The programme involves parents of children with special needs and teachers.

Through the programme, up to 55 parents of children with special needs per batch will be trained for free behavioural therapy to aid parenting. The cost of each certification is about Dh30,000.

Further, teachers in government and private schools too will be trained on special education.

Speaking exclusively to Gulf News, the CEO of the Foundation Dr Abdul Kareem Sultan Al Olama shared details about the programme that will be implemented in September 2013.

The programme is one of several being rolled out by the non-profit Foundation, which was set up under Law No 10 of 2012 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The Foundation has three pillars - medical research, education and treatment. Headquartered in Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), it depends on public and private donations to fulfil its objectives. (Al Jalila Foundation aims to raise Dh100 million for the year 2013.) 
Of the programme to help children with developmental disorders, Dr Al Olama said it will have two tiers — the first aimed at parents and the second, at teachers.

“The first tier is behavioural therapy training for parents. At any given time, up to 55 parents will be trained over 12 weeks,” he said.

The reasoning behind the programme, he explained is that many parents of children of special needs find it challenging to raise their children because they do not possess the necessary behavioural therapy skills.

“Through the training, parents will not think twice about taking their child to a public place like a mall or travel abroad [due to behavioural limitations],” he said.

Of the teacher training second tier, Dr Al Olama said it will focus on training teachers on basic awareness to do with learning difficulties, offer specialised mentor training to those interested, and provide a train-the-trainer module.

“Teachers from nurseries and primary schools need to learn to better manage students with special needs and recognise signs of any learning disability,” he said.

The training for teachers will ensure that each child gets the necessary educational approach appropriate for his or her condition. Towards this, the Foundation has partnered with several government and non-government organisations, he said.

“These organisations include the Ministry of Education, Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s (KHDA), Community Development Authority (CDA), and centres for children with special needs like Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre and Dubai Autism Centre,” he said.

He added, “The goal is to help more and more children with special needs get into mainstream schools, and for parents, to enjoy raising their children. In turn, these children will get the help they need to be productive members of society. We also hope to change the perception in which the identity of the child comes after the disability aspect.”