Ayesha Al Kaabi, seen here with her therapist Rana Kobeissi, is a different girl since she started to attend the New England Centre in Abu Dhabi. Antonie Robertson / The National
Ayesha Al Kaabi, seen here with her therapist Rana Kobeissi, is a different girl since she started to attend the New England Centre in Abu Dhabi. Antonie Robertson / The National

Day their eyes shone bright again

Mariam Al Tunaiji always believed that her son had a bright future. Last Wednesday her faith was rewarded. It was the day when her nine-and-a-half-year-old autistic son was admitted to a regular school and was finally able to mingle with children of his own age.

Mrs Al Tunaiji has been fighting for her son Mayed ever since it was discovered he had Autistic Spectrum Disorder. From the start she wanted him to go to a regular kindergarten instead of spending his childhood in an autism centre.

After pleading with the kindergarten’s head teacher several times, she got approval to take up a place – with the condition that he would be accompanied by a nanny. Mrs Al Tunaiji also employed an autism practitioner.

Mayed’s story begins with his uncle noticing dysfunctional behaviour at the age of one and an half.

The boy would hide himself in a corner, cry for no apparent reason, and also had speech issues.

At first his mother refused to accept there was a problem. But soon after, she began to investigate and educate herself on the subject of autism.

“To be honest, I was ignorant about autism,” admits Mrs Al Tunaiji, the mother of five.

To confirm a diagnosis of autism, a series of tests were carried out on Mayed, including an MRI scan and hearing tests.

“I took Mayed to a few autism centres and he underwent a few medical tests,” she says. “All the tests proved that he was fine.”

Next, a doctor suggested that she take him to Kuwait because of the rising incidence of the disorder there. A psychiatrist diagnosed her son with moderate autism. He prescribed several drugs, but she found that they were making Mayed drowsy and tired.

“It was disheartening to see my son suffer. I’d rather die than see him like this. Each psychiatrist recommended another. Where do I go with this innocent soul,” she says, recalling those difficult years.

As it turned out, the answer was on her doorstep, at the New England Centre for Children in Abu Dhabi, through the recommendation of a friend whose own son had been helped with his autism.

According to Dr Dan Gould, chief clinical officer at the centre, the true number of cases of autism in the UAE is not known. “In Abu Dhabi, there are currently an estimated 1,466 Emiratis of an appropriate age for a specialised autism programme,” he says. “By the year 2020 there will be approximately 1,655 children in the capital alone of an appropriate age for a specialised autism programme.”

The prediction for 2013 through 2020 was based on the current population data from the 2012 Statistical Yearbook and an estimated population growth of 3 per cent.

Mrs Al Tunaiji is among those who took an early step to help her son, encouraged by the centre’s reputation. “The centre didn’t diagnose him immediately. It took them around two months to get back to us with their empirical research,” she says.

Unfortunately there was another problem. The centre had no space for her son. But Mrs Al Tunaiji wasn’t about to give up. “I approached Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for the sake of my son,” she recalls. “The moment I stood in front of him, tears began to roll.”

“Please help my son get admitted to the New England,” she recalls telling him. “He granted my wish. I am forever indebted.”

The following day she received some good news. At the age of six, Mayed joined the New England Centre. “I was floored by the hospitality and receptiveness of staff at the centre,” she says.

Now Mrs Al Tunaiji attends classes along with her son to improve her knowledge about autism. This is one of the methods the centre uses to help parents communicate better with their children. “Whatever I learn from the New England, I implement it at home,” she says.

One of the techniques she learnt to help her son is the use of positive reinforcement. “If you do this, I will give you that. There is a ‘benefit’ awaiting you if you listen,” she explains.

“His fast recovery is like night and day. My boy is smart and speaks English better than I,” she says. “He loves everything related to space and science.”

Thanks to the early detection of the disorder, Mayed is slowly winning the battle and is now in the 5th Grade at Omair bin Yousef Primary School in Baniyas.

Ten years ago, it would be hard to find even a newspaper article about disability, says Sharifa Yateem, a consultant specialist at the New England Centre. These days, there are even specially reserved parking spaces for the disabled. Awareness is everything, she explains. “With increasing awareness, more people are being correctly diagnosed. Parents, caregivers and communities are becoming more aware of it and are seeking treatment,” she says.

To know what it is really like to raise a child with autism, ask Kafia Al Kaabi. Mrs Al Kaabi has seven children and Ayesha, her nine-year-old daughter, was actually the only one of her children who seemed to have no health problems after birth. “For the first nine months, Ayesha spoke a few words like ‘baba’ and ‘mama’,” she says. “For the next nine months, she stopped talking completely. The light in her eyes went off.”

Like Mayed, she became seclusive and would burst into tears. The family did not know how to handle the situation. Again there were tests, including hearing, that seemed to show nothing was wrong.

“I took her to a speech therapist, she didn’t know how to deal with my child. Ayesha was uncomfortable around her,” recalls Mrs Al Kaabi.

Ayesha was one of the first pupils to enrol in the New England Centre. The mother calls the centre her “Harvard University”.

What Ayesha and other autistic children struggle with most is the opportunity to be treated equally by society on a wider scale.

“If only Arab society knew the daily challenge of parents with special needs,” says Mrs Al Kaabi, who writes frequently on the subject for Al Khaleej newspaper. “If you can’t fully grasp my situation, at least, respect it.”

Ayesha was a difficult case to handle. When the family went out for entertainment, other children couldn’t enjoy their time because of her behaviour. But today, Ayesha is a different person.

With help from the New England Centre, her teacher has made a schedule for Ayesha to go out with the family and enjoy her childhood like any other girl.

“Ayesha loves water and she learnt swimming at her school,” her mother says proudly, adding: “Nine years old, and Ayesha now knows I am her mother. Oh my lord, when I rewind that moment of my life, I am over the Moon.”



Company name: SimpliFi

Started: August 2021

Founder: Ali Sattar

Based: UAE

Industry: Finance, technology

Investors: 4DX, Rally Cap, Raed, Global Founders, Sukna and individuals

Our legal consultant

Name: Dr Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.


Rohit Sharma (captain), Shikhar Dhawan (vice-captain), KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Deepak Hooda, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Vijay Shankar, Shardul Thakur, Jaydev Unadkat, Mohammad Siraj and Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper)


Company: Growdash
Started: July 2022
Founders: Sean Trevaskis and Enver Sorkun
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Restaurant technology
Funding so far: $750,000
Investors: Flat6Labs, Plus VC, Judah VC, TPN Investments and angel investors, including former Talabat chief executive Abdulhamid Alomar, and entrepreneur Zeid Husban

Things Heard & Seen

Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, James Norton


The specs

Engine: 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo
Power: 299hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 2,750rpm
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 12.4L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh157,395 (XLS); Dh199,395 (Limited)


Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Stars: Gerard Butler, Navid Negahban, Ali Fazal

Rating: 2.5/5

Army of the Dead

Director: Zack Snyder

Stars: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera

Three stars


5pm: Maiden | Dh80,000 |  1,600m
Winner: AF Al Moreeb, Tadhg O’Shea (jockey), Ernst Oertel (trainer)

5.30pm: Handicap |  Dh80,000 |  1,600m
Winner: AF Makerah, Adrie de Vries, Ernst Oertel

6pm: Handicap |  Dh80,000 |  2,200m
Winner: Hazeme, Richard Mullen, Jean de Roualle

6.30pm: Handicap |  Dh85,000 |  2,200m
Winner: AF Yatroq, Brett Doyle, Ernst Oertel

7pm: Shadwell Farm for Private Owners Handicap |  Dh70,000 |  2,200m
Winner: Nawwaf KB, Patrick Cosgrave, Helal Al Alawi

7.30pm: Handicap (TB) |  Dh100,000 |  1,600m
Winner: Treasured Times, Bernardo Pinheiro, Rashed Bouresly


4pm: Maiden (Dirt) Dh165,000 1,600m
Winner: Moshaher, Pat Dobbs (jockey), Doug Watson (trainer).

4.35pm: Handicap (D) Dh165,000 2,200m
Winner: Heraldic, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar.

5.10pm: Maiden (Turf) Dh165,000 1,600m
Winner: Rua Augusta, Harry Bentley, Ahmad bin Harmash.

5.45pm: Handicap (D) Dh190,000 1,200m
Winner: Private’s Cove, Mickael Barzalona, Sandeep Jadhav.

6.20pm: Handicap (T) Dh190,000 1,600m
Winner: Azmaam, Jim Crowley, Musabah Al Muhairi.

6.55pm: Handicap (D) Dh190,000 1,400m
Winner: Bochart, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar.

7.30pm: Handicap (T) Dh190,000 2,000m
Winner: Rio Tigre, Mickael Barzalona, Sandeep Jadhav.

Director: Paul Weitz
Stars: Kevin Hart
3/5 stars


Friday Hertha Berlin v Union Berlin (11.30pm)

Saturday Freiburg v Borussia Monchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Dortmund, Cologne v Wolfsburg, Arminia Bielefeld v Mainz (6.30pm) Bayern Munich v RB Leipzig (9.30pm)

Sunday Werder Bremen v Stuttgart (6.30pm), Schalke v Bayer Leverkusen (9pm)

Monday Hoffenheim v Augsburg (11.30pm)

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now


Engine: 3.6-litre V6

Transmission: nine-speed automatic

Power: 310hp

Torque: 366Nm

Price: Dh200,000

The specs

Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat-six

Power: 650hp at 6,750rpm

Torque: 800Nm from 2,500-4,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch auto

Fuel consumption: 11.12L/100km

Price: From Dh796,600

On sale: now


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

History's medical milestones

1799 - First small pox vaccine administered

1846 - First public demonstration of anaesthesia in surgery

1861 - Louis Pasteur published his germ theory which proved that bacteria caused diseases

1895 - Discovery of x-rays

1923 - Heart valve surgery performed successfully for first time

1928 - Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin

1953 - Structure of DNA discovered

1952 - First organ transplant - a kidney - takes place 

1954 - Clinical trials of birth control pill

1979 - MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, scanned used to diagnose illness and injury.

1998 - The first adult live-donor liver transplant is carried out

Company Profile

Company name: Fine Diner

Started: March, 2020

Co-founders: Sami Elayan, Saed Elayan and Zaid Azzouka

Based: Dubai

Industry: Technology and food delivery

Initial investment: Dh75,000

Investor: Dtec Startupbootcamp

Future plan: Looking to raise $400,000

Total sales: Over 1,000 deliveries in three months


Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol (V Class); electric motor with 60kW or 90kW powerpack (EQV)
Power: 233hp (V Class, best option); 204hp (EQV, best option)
Torque: 350Nm (V Class, best option); TBA (EQV)
On sale: Mid-2024
Price: TBA


Company name: HyperPay

Started: 2014

Founder: Muhannad Ebwini

Based: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Industry: FinTech

Funding size: $55m

Investors: AB Ventures, Amwal Capital, INet, Mada VC, Mastercard, SVC

Electric scooters: some rules to remember
  • Riders must be 14-years-old or over
  • Wear a protective helmet
  • Park the electric scooter in designated parking lots (if any)
  • Do not leave electric scooter in locations that obstruct traffic or pedestrians
  • Solo riders only, no passengers allowed
  • Do not drive outside designated lanes

Uefa Champions League semi-final, first leg
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid

When: April 25, 10.45pm kick-off (UAE)
Where: Allianz Arena, Munich
Live: BeIN Sports HD
Second leg: May 1, Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

The specs

Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8

Power: 611bhp

Torque: 620Nm

Transmission: seven-speed automatic

Price: upon application

On sale: now

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

Terminator: Dark Fate

Director: Tim Miller

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis 

Rating: 3/5

How I connect with my kids when working or travelling

Little notes: My girls often find a letter from me, with a joke, task or some instructions for the afternoon, and saying what I’m excited for when I get home.
Phone call check-in: My kids know that at 3.30pm I’ll be free for a quick chat.
Highs and lows: Instead of a “how was your day?”, at dinner or at bathtime we share three highlights; one thing that didn’t go so well; and something we’re looking forward to.
I start, you next: In the morning, I often start a little Lego project or drawing, and ask them to work on it while I’m gone, then we’ll finish it together.
Bedtime connection: Wake up and sleep time are important moments. A snuggle, some proud words, listening, a story. I can’t be there every night, but I can start the day with them.
Undivided attention: Putting the phone away when I get home often means sitting in the car to send a last email, but leaving it out of sight between home time and bedtime means you can connect properly.
Demystify, don’t demonise your job: Help them understand what you do, where and why. Show them your workplace if you can, then it’s not so abstract when you’re away - they’ll picture you there. Invite them into your “other” world so they know more about the different roles you have.

Match info

UAE v Bolivia, Friday, 6.25pm, Maktoum bin Rashid Stadium, Dubai


Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Playing records of the top 10 in 2017

How many games the top 10 have undertaken in the 2017 ATP season

1. Rafael Nadal 58 (49-9)

2. Andy Murray 35 (25-10)

3. Roger Federer 38 (35-3)

4. Stan Wawrinka 37 (26-11)

5. Novak Djokovic 40 (32-8)

6. Alexander Zverev 60 (46-14)

7. Marin Cilic 43 (29-14)

8. Dominic Thiem 60 (41-19)

9. Grigor Dimitrov 48 (34-14)

10. Kei Nishikori 43 (30-13)


6pm: The Madjani Stakes – Group 2 (PA) Dh97,500 (Dirt) 1,900m
6.35pm: Graduate Stakes – Conditions (TB) Dh100,000 (D) 1,400m
7.10pm: Longines Dolcevita Collection – Maiden (TB) Dh82,500 (D) 1,400m
7.45pm: Longines Legend Driver Collection – Maiden (TB) Dh82,500 (D) 1,600m
8.20pm: Longines Master Collection – Handicap (TB) Dh105,000 (D) 1,200m
8.55pm: Longines Record Collection – Handicap (TB) Dh87,500 (D) 2,200m
9.30pm: Longines Spirit Collection – Handicap (TB) Dh87,500 (D) 1,600m





Manchester City 1

Jesus 4'

Brighton 0

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Director: James Wan

Starring: Jason Mamoa, Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II 

Rating: 2/5

The biog

Favourite food: Fish and seafood

Favourite hobby: Socialising with friends

Favourite quote: You only get out what you put in!

Favourite country to visit: Italy

Favourite film: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Family: We all have one!

Iftar programme at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

Established in 1998, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding was created with a vision to teach residents about the traditions and customs of the UAE. Its motto is ‘open doors, open minds’. All year-round, visitors can sign up for a traditional Emirati breakfast, lunch or dinner meal, as well as a range of walking tours, including ones to sites such as the Jumeirah Mosque or Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.

Every year during Ramadan, an iftar programme is rolled out. This allows guests to break their fast with the centre’s presenters, visit a nearby mosque and observe their guides while they pray. These events last for about two hours and are open to the public, or can be booked for a private event.

Until the end of Ramadan, the iftar events take place from 7pm until 9pm, from Saturday to Thursday. Advanced booking is required.

For more details, email openminds@cultures.ae or visit www.cultures.ae


Country-size land deals

US interest in purchasing territory is not as outlandish as it sounds. Here's a look at some big land transactions between nations:

Louisiana Purchase

If Donald Trump is one who aims to broker "a deal of the century", then this was the "deal of the 19th Century". In 1803, the US nearly doubled in size when it bought 2,140,000 square kilometres from France for $15 million.

Florida Purchase Treaty

The US courted Spain for Florida for years. Spain eventually realised its burden in holding on to the territory and in 1819 effectively ceded it to America in a wider border treaty. 

Alaska purchase

America's spending spree continued in 1867 when it acquired 1,518,800 km2 of  Alaskan land from Russia for $7.2m. Critics panned the government for buying "useless land".

The Philippines

At the end of the Spanish-American War, a provision in the 1898 Treaty of Paris saw Spain surrender the Philippines for a payment of $20 million. 

US Virgin Islands

It's not like a US president has never reached a deal with Denmark before. In 1917 the US purchased the Danish West Indies for $25m and renamed them the US Virgin Islands.


The most recent sovereign land purchase was in 1958 when Pakistan bought the southwestern port of Gwadar from Oman for 5.5bn Pakistan rupees. 

No_One Ever Really Dies


(I Am Other/Columbia)

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