Sharjah Centre for Learning Difficulties is expected to be a game changer Image Credit: Arshad Ali/XPRESS

SHARJAH: A new centre for learning difficulties called the Sharjah Center for Learning Difficulties (SCLD) has been established under the Sharjah City of Humanitarian Services (SCHS) by a decree issued by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

The 626 square metre centre, located on Abdulla Salim Al Sabah Road, adjacent to the Majater Mall, will cater to both Emiratis and expats with learning difficulties.

Shaikh Hamad Abdul Aziz Al Mualla, Consultant at SCLD, said the centre has been set up as a separate autonomous entity under the umbrella of SCHS, a non-profit organisation aimed at providing advocacy, inclusion and empowerment for people with disabilities under the director-generalship of Her Highness Shaikha Jameela Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi. The centre’s creation, he added, is an emphatic step towards a happier, healthier and a more cohesive society.

Although there is no estimate of the number of people with learning difficulties in the UAE, statistics globally show that one in every five persons has a learning difficulty which refers to a difficulty in acquiring skills and knowledge to a “normal level expected from those of the same age” Shaikh Hamad, who was himself diagnosed with dyslexia, one form of learning difficulty, as a child, is now the global advocate for children and adults with dyslexia under the Unesco-linked non-profit Dyslexia International.

Famous dyslexics

Dyslexia and other learning difficulties have nothing to do with intelligence, in fact some dyslexics have an IQ that is higher than the so called “normal” population. From Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Muhammad Ali to Tom Cruise, Richard Branson and Steven Spielberg, there are many dyslexics who have gone on to become icons in various fields in history. Shaikh Hamad said the aim of SCLD is to empower people with learning difficulties, raise awareness and provide tools and modern techniques to help them and their families overcome their challenges. The centre will support those with learning difficulties in school or college and even those who may drop out and help them integrate into mainstream schools or society.

It will work with schools to enable the transition and provide analyses, training and evaluation with tailored programmes and specialists from around the world. The centre will also conduct research and make recommendations for policy formulation and change in the area of learning difficulties and education. Shaikh Hamad said, “Registrations to the centre have begun. SCLD is open to anyone in the UAE who has a learning difficulty - age, nationality no bar. Its services will be subsidised. We ask families of those diagnosed with learning difficulties or even suspected to have a problem to come forward and register with us. We will assess the applicants and ensure admission.”

Distinct from the spectrum of learning disabilities among those with special needs, a learning difficulty impacts neurological processing and affects one’s understanding or use of language, spoken or written. It manifests itself in a difficulty to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations, said Shaikh Hamad. He said, “Dyslexia, which affects millions worldwide, is the most common learning difficulty. There are many other types of learning difficulties like dyscalculia, dyspraxia, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, auditory processing disorder, visual perceptual/visual motor deficit, slow learning and so on.”

In other words, a learning difficulty relates to a different way in which the brain receives, processes, analyses or stores information. For instance, dyslexia has to do with the way a child reads, writes, spells or speaks; dyscalculia interferes with the understanding of math, money and time; and dyspraxia relates to hand-eye coordination etc. The key lies in providing the right intervention at the right time.

Registrations Open

WHAT: Sharjah Centre for Learning Difficulties

WHERE: Abdulla Salim Al Sabah Road (Next to Majater Mall), Sharjah

WHO: Emiratis and expats with confirmed or suspected dyslexia and other learning difficulties, age no bar

DETAILS: Visit centre or call 06-552 5222