Vicci Tucci, founder/president of Tucci Learning Solutions, California, Cathy Scutta (left) and Nipa Bhuptani (right), Head of Autism Department at Future Centre for Special Needs, Abu Dhabi, with students. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: When Vicci Tucci opened her first school for adults with behavioural disabilities, it was her encounter with a young adult that inspired her to create the Competent Learning Model (CLM).

"I remember that particular student... I wasn't sure what to do because she would come in, sit down at the table and then put her head on the table, as though she was in a vegetative state. It was difficult for me to interact with her... in the end I created CLM based on my experiences so others would know how to approach such situations," said the programme founder and founder of Tucci Learning Solutions.

The goal of CLM is to give autistic children the basic skills they need to be able to communicate and be part of society while allowing parents and educators to find an effective channel through which they could interact with those children.

"Most parents as well as educators don't know how to interact with autistic children… they feel embarrassed because the children may do or say something that is unusual, which discourages them from going out anywhere public because the parents feel judged," said Cathy Scutta, Autism Lead — Pennsylvania State Education Department.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), autism is a complex neuro-developmental disability, which affects normal brain function. People with autism have difficulty with communication along with a wide range of social activities and interaction and would usually prefer to repetitively perform a set of behaviours and will resist any changes to daily routine.

"Autism falls under a spectrum. Some students are mildly autistic, and others are moderate or severe. In our classes, most students are moderately or severely autistic. Mildly autistic children are able to change and integrate into mainstream schools more easily," Huma Vachha, a Clinical Psychologist at the Future Centre, explained.

The Future Centre for Special Needs has been the first in the UAE to receive a certificate of accreditation from Tucci Learning Solutions at a special ceremony yesterday. The certificate will allow them to not only train members of their staff, but also other centres as well. "As part of our training in the CLM model, one of our teams in the centre participated in a competition and won an award for their study," said Nipa Bhuptani, Head of the Autism Department at the Future Centre.