190203 new school
The new Al Karamah School will include a team of dedicated therapists and teachers. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The first school in the capital dedicated to Emirati children with autism has opened, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) announced in a statement on Monday.

The Al Karamah School will enrol up to 260 students on the autism spectrum and will be operated by UK-based education provider, Priory Group.

“We are delighted to support the opening of the UAE’s first school dedicated to the needs of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. We firmly believe that every child deserves to be given the opportunity and necessary tools to learn and succeed in their chosen path. Al Karamah School will [therefore] offer unprecedented levels of specialised teaching and expertise, and correlates with our vision to provide world-class education that supports all learners,” said Sara Musallam, chairperson at the Adek.

As education sector regulator for Abu Dhabi Emirate, the Adek operates more than 200 public schools, and many of these accept children with special needs. In addition, private schools are incentivised to enrol special needs individuals.

Still, there is a long waiting list for the limited number of seats at dedicated, privately-run special needs education institutions in Abu Dhabi. Most Emirati children with special needs are therefore enrolled at the Zayed Higher Organisation, which caters to all kinds of Emirati children with determination.

Al Karamah School is therefore expected to ease the pressure on these existing institutions.

According to the Adek statement, the school has been designed to provide students with an intimate and secure learning environment, including special classroom ‘hubs, a multi-purpose hall and dining room and a large oasis-style garden. It will incorporate small class sizes so that every child can benefit from individual attention and support, and deliver bespoke education packages for each student.

“We believe there is a significant opportunity to support children with special educational needs across the Middle East. Our first overseas school, in Abu Dhabi, draws on our experience in the UK by creating a positive learning environment from which pupils are able to reach their true potential and go on to lead fulfilling lives and careers as adults,” said Trevor Torrington, chief executive officer at the Priory Group.

“An important part of our philosophy is also about working to include and integrate all children into local partner schools and the community, working alongside parents, the educational authorities and other stakeholders,” he added.