It is no secret that families with children who have special needs find it overwhelmingly difficult to enrol their children in mainstream schools. Amidst the situation, 19 children of an early intervention programme were successfully admitted into a handful mainstream public and private schools in Dubai last academic year.
The Dubai Early Childhood Development Centre (DECDC), an initiative of the Community Development Authority (CDA), which runs the early intervention programme, made the enrolments possible in cooperation with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.
The DECDC on Wednesday honoured these schools for supporting the inclusion of children with special needs and called on more schools to follow suit.
All the 19 children are Emirati and have different problems including – hearing impairment, behavioural issues, autism and downs syndrome. They belong to the age group from nursery to grade one.
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The honouring ceremony held under the slogan "Education is my right" was organised to promote and enhance social integration of disabled people and ensure positive outcomes from this process, officials said.
"Like anyone children with disabilities have the right to education, employment and all other services," Khalid Al Kamda, director general of CDA said. "It takes lot of hard work from schools to make inclusion possible. But inclusion is very significant to develop the capabilities and skills of children with special needs," he said.
If we put out hands together we can achieve positive results, he added.
"Integration in schools is the first step in implementing our future plan. We look forward to integrating children beyond schools, to the rest of the institutions and sectors," said Shaikh Maktoum bin Butti Al Maktoum, CEO of social care at CDA.
Aysha Ahmad Al Belhoul, who own Kids Academy, which was honoured for accepting one child said that such initiatives encourage more schools to put in extra efforts to include special children. "It is the moral and ethical responsibility of schools to do so," she added.
The DECDC started working on the initiative in 2008, Dr Bushra Al Mulla, who heads the centre said. "We first started with increasing awareness among teachers and then holding several training sessions for them."
An Emirati grandmother whose grandchild has learning disability said that she is very happy about the CDA intiative. "Lending support to special needs children is very important; since children are the future of our country and we need t empower them."
"Although a child only has a mild problem, getting into mainstream schools is not easy and there kind of a stigma, which should change," she said.