Special Needs Education

The UAE boasts an excellent private school system for expats; however, it is sometimes more difficult to find quality education for children with special needs. There is increasing awareness, and so the situation does seem to be slowly improving. If your child has physical or learning difficulties, there are several organisations that can help; the Dubai Dyslexia Support Group, for example, holds regular meetings for families affected by dyslexia. There are also schools that seem to be leading the way in terms of opening doors to children with special needs, while certain other private schools in Dubai will offer places to children with mild dyslexia or Down’s syndrome.

Severe learning difficulties
Unfortunately, the picture is not so bright for children with more severe learning difficulties or special needs. While in an ideal world it may be desirable for these children to attend ‘normal’ schools, the truth is that the majority of private schools in the UAE do not have sufficient facilities or support to cope with severe disabilities or to meet the special needs of some children. While this may result in, for example, a child with a physical disability not being able to attend a mainstream school despite not having any cognitive impairment, some parents feel that there is little point pushing the issue.

Helpful organisations
Organisations such as the British Institute for Learning Development aim to bridge a gap between private schools that may lack adequate facilities and more extreme solutions in the form of centres for children with severe disabilities. Although it focuses more on learning support and sensory therapy than on helping children with physical disabilities, the institute seeks to address children’s learning and behavioural problems through occupational therapy and neuro-developmental therapy (Sensory Integration). Students are supported through work with speech therapists, psychologists and specially qualified teachers.

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