Special education
Image Credit: Courtesy of Doris Duan-Young Autism Center

"We believe in a multidisciplinary approach to treatment and care”

Dr Arif Khan, Consultant Paediatric Neurologist, Founder and CEO, Neuropedia

How is Neuropedia making its mark in the treatment of neurological disorders in the UAE?

Dr Arif Khan

Neuropedia is the first highly specialised paediatric neuroscience centre in the country, offering state-of-the-art expert care for brain, nerve and muscle-related disorders. It provides world-class expertise in neurological, psychological, behavioural and rehabilitative science for children.

The centre believes in a multidisciplinary approach and works together to cater to the unique needs of every child and their family. We take a comprehensive approach to health issues. From the initial diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation and long-term follow-up care, everything is available under one roof. This unique approach helps us create a standard in patient care that many clinics are striving to achieve.

We have been operational in Dubai for more than four years and due to excessive demand, we have now opened a branch in Sharjah.

“Creating awareness is an ongoing process in child neurology due to its ever-changing landscape”

Dr Aman PS Sohal, Consultant Paediatric Neurologist, Founding Partner and Clinical Director, Neuropedia

Dr Aman PS Sohal

How far has the neurological fraternity in the UAE been able to create awareness on paediatric neurological disorders and its management and treatment options?

In recent times, there has been a substantial increase in awareness of neurological, psychological and behavioural disorders in children amongst the general public. One of the key factors for awareness is the synergistic approach among professionals in different fields. Early recognition of neurological problems in children is the cornerstone of management of these disorders. Neuropedia also plays an important role in imparting education and runs an annual paediatric neurology conference — Neuropedicon, which brings together health practitioners from all walks of paediatrics and allied health professionals from the UAE and abroad on one platform. There are also frequent social media campaigns run by Neuropedia to reach out to parents.

These efforts from the neurology fraternity is bearing fruits and we could see a trend where many parents are able to recognise the early warning signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder and bring their children for assessments and early intervention.

However, there is still a long way to go as creating awareness is an ongoing process in child neurology due to its ever-changing landscape.

“Our mission is to provide holistic support to families and children”

Meera Ramani, Founder and Programme Director, Behaviour Enrichment

Meera Ramani

How has the help available for children of determination changed or improved over recent years?

In Dubai, the KHDA has done a tremendous job in ensuring inclusion of students of determination in schools. Education institutions have also begun collaborating with centres to provide therapy within the school’s premises, which helps the child progress in all environments.

Furthermore, the professional licensing process under CDA and DHA have ensured that families have access to licensed and well-qualified professionals who are the best in their field. Another important development is that a growing number of insurance companies have started offering coverage for children to access these much-needed therapy services.

We are very blessed to be living in the UAE where the government wholeheartedly supports inclusion and ensures that it is practised in every sphere of life.

How does Behaviour Enrichment make a difference in the lives of children of determination?

At BE, our mission is to provide holistic support to families and children of determination through therapy, education and training.

We treat every child as unique, and the plan for each child is personalised based on their needs. We also use bespoke software to assess the child, plan treatment goals, and make treatment decisions accurately and efficiently.

Lastly, our training programmes for parents, teachers and professionals help them understand and implement strategies to work with and bring out the best in our children.

“Advancements in technology have increased accessibility of learning support services”

Ikram Buralle, Case Manager, The Doris Duan-Young Autism Center

Ikram Buralle

How has treatment available for children of determination changed or improved over recent years? What various learning support services are now available for autism that might not have been there before?

There has been an increased availability of evidence-based treatment options, such as Applied Behaviour Analysis, in Dubai. Families are aware of the importance of evidence-based treatment options and the role it plays in improving the lives of children of determination. Advancements in technology, such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, have increased accessibility of learning support services.

Growth in technology has allowed children with different abilities to integrate in schools and society at large.

How does The Doris Duan-Young Autism Center (DDY) make a difference in the lives of children of determination?

At The Doris Duan-Young Autism Center, children of determination are provided evidence-based treatments such as Applied Behaviour Analysis, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy. Families are able to participate in their child’s treatment by attending parent education sessions in the centre.

DDY organises social outings in the community for children of determination to give them the opportunity to develop social skills and access to different activities and experiences.

Staff are provided regular trainings to improve their skills and be up to date with the current research. At DDY, we believe in providing a holistic treatment approach by incorporating all aspects of a child’s life in their treatment plan.

“Engage certified and licensed professionals”

Martina O’Donnell, Behaviour Specialist and Case Manager, Milestones Autism Rehabilitation Center

Martina O’Donnell

What are the key things parents must keep in mind before choosing a centre for children of determination?

Parents should feel comfortable to approach a centre and enquire about their services. They should be encouraged to ask any questions they may have on their mind, and they should always be included in the therapy implementation whenever possible. A therapeutic, distraction-free and supportive environment for the child to learn is another important factor to consider when choosing the right centre.

Most importantly, it is essential to exclusively engage certified and licensed professionals. Parents should ensure their Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapist is under the direct supervision of a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst and that the professionals are licensed to practice.

Technology is transforming special needs education in the UAE – what are the key trends shaping education for special children?

Key technology advancements are taking shape in the areas of communication, functional and academic skills. Research shows that this area of technological progress is showing great promise. There are several apps that are designed to help individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) live as independently as possible.

For example, there are apps that help individuals with special needs recognise and express emotions; and build sentences with the use of pictures, which are spoken out loud by the programme and the child is encouraged to practice saying them out loud.

The use of virtual and augmented reality in special education is also growing. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) are environments that promote constant learning and represent areas that have an incredible potential of improving the lives of special needs individuals.