Abu Dhabi: From September 2021, a dedicated programme will train educators in Abu Dhabi to work effectively with children on the autism spectrum.
The training aims to offer more inclusive education opportunities within private and charter schools.
The UAE Ministry of Community Development estimates 12 per cent of all People of Determination in the UAE are on the autism spectrum, with boys four times more likely to be on it than girls. Because people on the spectrum often demonstrate average or above average mental capabilities, a number of them are enrolled in UAE schools.
The Adek training will be offered following a three-year agreement between the emirate’s education regulator, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek), and UK Department of Education’s Autism Education trust (AET). The AET works to build and enhance professional capabilities to autism spectrum students from the early years up to 25 years, and has developed its training programme and teacher resources with the help of people on the spectrum, their caregivers, and education professionals.
About one in 88 children is estimated to be on the autism spectrum in Abu Dhabi. Internationally, the rate of autism has grown tenfold over the last four decades.
The condition, which presents at early childhood, is typically characterised by impaired social interaction and communication skills. Individuals on the spectrum also have difficulty in using language and abstract concepts. It is believed to be caused mostly by genetic factors, although certain environmental reasons are also highlighted.
In Abu Dhabi, the AET programme will be customised to cater to local needs, and schools can contact Adek to schedule the training for their educators. It includes three training modules, providing basic awareness training for educators and school staff, and practical knowledge and tools for those working directly with students on the spectrum.
“This programme is based on three key principles, which foster the inclusivity ecosystem across Abu Dhabi schools. By focusing on the differences not the deficits, the programme highlights the strengths that students of determination have, not the challenges they face. It calls for us to adopt high expectations for autism spectrum students and promotes positive attitudes towards autism. The third key principle focuses on securing learning goals that are meaningful to students, which aligns with our commitment to create new career and learning pathways to ensure students of determination take activate roles in society,” said Kevin Baskerville, Adek’s acting director for its Students of Determination Office.
Other inclusive efforts
In recent years, the Adek has been working to increase opportunities for students of determination in Abu Dhabi. In 2019, it opened the Al Karamah School for Emirati children on the spectrum, with the capacity to enrol 260 children. Earlier this year, it also inaugurated the Al Karamah Training Institute, which provides vocational training to individuals on autism spectrum who are aged 15 year or more.