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Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) has announced an expansion plan for Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Special Education. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: An additional 118 new Emirati students with autism can now be accommodated at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Special Education (MRC-NECC), following the approval of expansion plans by Abu Dhabi’s education regulator.

The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) also renewed, for the next five years, its service contract with the New England Centre for Children, which runs the MRC.

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The news has been welcomed by Emirati families whose children are enrolled at the MRC.

As part of the expansion, an unoccupied onsite building will be developed so that it can accommodate the additional children, increasing the total number of enrolled students to 293.

“The primary objective is to deliver world-class learning support, therapy and care to Students of Determination. The expansion plan [also] includes the development of state-of-the-art teaching and therapy,” said Amer Al Hammadi, Adek undersecretary.

“We remain committed to our mission of enabling high-quality education and providing the best opportunities for all students. We [also] thank families for their enduring support and cooperation. With their feedback, suggestions and efforts, we are confident in providing the right opportunities for children and empowering them to build independent lives,” the official added.

Principles of applied behaviour

The MRC-NECC was first established in June 2007, although it was initially called the NECC-AD. In July 2018, the facility was renamed as MRC-NECC. MRC-NECC provides intensive educational services, utilising the principles of applied behaviour analysis, to Emirati children aged three to nine with autism and related disorders. The facility, located in Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Bin Zayed City, uses the experience gathered by the US-based NECC.

“The MRC-NECC team helped me diagnose Hamdan’s autism at an early stage, and they have played a crucial role in my son’s development, in addition to providing me and my family with much-needed guidance and support. Having spent six years working with the centre, I can confidently say that it has become our second home. The team is in constant communication with us to discuss learning and care plans to support Hamdan, and we are deeply grateful for everyone’s commitment, not only at the centre, but also at the Student of Determination Office at ADEK,” said Hamada Al Blooshi, mother of Hamdan, a child enrolled at the MRC-NECC.

Holistic learning support

“My son has been at MRC-NECC for nine years, and the care and learning support he has received has enabled him to reach many milestones in his development,” said Maryam Al Tinaiji, mother of Mayed, another MRC-NECC enrollee.

Adek’s future plans include transferring students from the MRC-NECC Inclusion Programme to a new Adek-managed project named the Adek Autism Inclusion Project. These students are currently in mainstream schools and will continue to receive holistic learning support as they move through the next phases of their educational journey. Operationally, this also creates seats at MRC-NECC for Emiratis who require specialised services.

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“Our commitment to inclusive education provides Emirati students with autism a range of alternative education pathways, providing opportunities to transition between specialist and mainstream education. We are dedicated to creating programmes for Students of Determination that enhance their learning and create the best outcomes for them once they leave our care,” said Rubi Mahmood, director at the Adek’s Student of Determination office.