For the first time, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) has enabled students with special needs enrolled in Abu Dhabi schools to participate in the Abu Dhabi Reads campaign.
ADEC is including students with a variety of disabilities including hearing/visual impairment, physical, mental, Down Syndrome, Autism and learning disabilities to participate in the all events related to the campaign. This Is part of ADEC's initiative to include all students in the learning and teaching process, regardless of their condition and/or status.
Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi, Director General of ADEC said, "The Abu Dhabi Reads campaign is a valuable opportunity through which ADEC highlights the rights of students with special needs as well as its keenness in improving their skills and developing their self-esteem".
She pointed out that the campaign offers the best opportunities to students with special needs, especially at this critical stage where the UAE is undergoing ongoing developments and improvements across various sectors and aspects of life and under the fast-paced changes in lifestyles, education and training worldwide.
"‘Every child has the right to an education. ADEC seeks to apply an array of initiatives that aim to integrate students with special needs into the education system. This ensures encouraging students with the best educational opportunities, which in turn encourages other students to face challenges," Al Qubaisi added.
Dr. Al Qubaisi explained that schools in Abu Dhabi are capable of handling 12 different types of disabilities related to vision, hearing, autism, mental, physical and behavioural disorders, adding that ADEC has developed new programs for these students that apply latest international standards and systems in integrating students with special needs by providing them with the necessary support inside classrooms. This is done by providing them with assistive devices and/or specialised educators who are experienced in dealing with students with special needs, in addition to increasing the number of specialised resource rooms at the majority of schools in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region.
ADEC has created special teaching classrooms tailored to specific types of disabilities inside mainstream schools such as classrooms for the students with hearing impairment.
She said that ADEC has equipped all schools to meet the needs of disabled students and has provided educational devices and means to support their learning process. ADEC is also keen on engaging students with disabilities in summer activities and robotic programs to encourage them to explore, learn and develop their skills through participating in scientific activities.
Ms. Hana Ali Al Hamdani, head of Abu Dhabi Reads special needs category said, "To ensure that events are varied and inclusive, the Abu Dhabi Reads higher committee added an important initiative this year, including meeting the needs of special needs students. This should enhance the idea of equal opportunities for all students. The higher committee has prepared a number of events and activities specifically tailored towards students with special needs, to be implemented at schools in collaboration with special education teachers and in accordance with a pre-planned methodology. The activities in which students are to participate will include four core objectives, namely knowledge, fun, innovation and inspiration.
"Special needs students will have a big share in this year's ADEC's booth at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Students along with their teachers, and their tailored reading devices and aids will participate in it. These devices will include the FM device for individuals with a hearing impairment, DAF devices that induce fluency in individuals who stutter, Braille Sense for the blind, devices for the visually impaired including Flick Camera and Acrobat device, ClearNote, Snow 7HD, VisioBook device and Zoomax Mars device for visually impaired students and BookSense device for blind students" Al Hamdani said.
"The initiative's higher committee and team were keen on ensuring that the special needs events and activities achieve their purpose of integrating their group of students, The committee also made sure that these activities encourage other students to interact with students with special needs across the society, thus increasing the self-esteem, productivity and positive attitude towards individuals with special needs, ," she added.
Ms. Al Hamdani listed the major techniques used for students with special needs, which include a pamphlet with special need devices along with their description and target group. Another pamphlet lists all disabilities with definitions, characteristics, early detection methods, available treatment and services offered by ADEC. A box contains cards with quotes from great figures written in Braille for the blind and visually impaired. There is also the sign name medal, which is a medal in the shape of a number of fingers spelling letters for individuals with a hearing impairment. After a student learns his name in sign language, he/she collects the letters of their name in a special medal designed for that purpose.
Another technique is using lights and sayings about reading, called "Sayings that made the great". The technique uses a collection of cards, and each card has a phrase/saying about reading. A large panel designed in a similar way to six-dot Braille cells is used to form words, enabling students to write their names using Braille. A colouring book is also used in telling the story of Hamad the adventurer. Each page in the book expresses a disability, thus shedding light on celebrating a certain disability such as World Mental Health Day on 10 October and White Cane Safety Day on 15 October.
She pointed out that one of the campaign's events involves fifth grader Ahmed Salem Al Niyadi, who suffers from autistic spectrum disorder. Ahmed will demonstrate the installation and programming of a robot and will present his drawings and comment on them.