Dubai teachers trained to get best out of special-needs children

Tens of teachers and social workers from 22 schools in Dubai are taking part in the training course organised by the Al Jalila Foundation.

Dr Abdulkareem Al Olama wants families to live in harmony with special-needs children. Antonie Robertson / The National
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DUBAI // Social inclusion is at the heart of a new learning programme offering teachers a better understanding of special-needs children.

Sixty-two teachers, principals and social workers from 22 private and public schools in Dubai are taking lessons in how to get the best out of children with learning difficulties as part of the Al Jalila Foundation’s Ta’alouf programme.

The six-month training programme will equip participants with the knowledge and skills to better understand each child’s individual learning needs and further broaden their understanding of inclusive education practices.

The course has been designed in cooperation with Zayed University and is endorsed by the Ministry of Education, as well as the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai’s education regulator.

Dr Anna Ferreira, assistant professor at Zayed University’s College of Education, said schools and colleges were keen to get involved, and added: “The CoE had been involved with professional development for teachers in previous years. But this programme has several unique components, such as individual mentoring for each participant and the establishment of professional learning communities. In my opinion, it is a first.”

Dr Ferreira, who is based in Dubai, said there had been challenges to overcome in the early stages of the programme, due to its unique and complex nature, as well as language barriers. “In the beginning I was concerned language issues may make the programme difficult,” she said. “Many of the teachers were Arabic speakers, some spoke English.

“However, the simultaneous translation services were very effective and, in the end, it worked out really well. For me, the biggest challenge during the development of the material was to meet the needs of teachers who have to work with such diverse requirements in their schools.

“One of the exceptional aspects of the programme is that teachers of so many languages and cultures have the opportunity to connect and share their concerns.”

Ta’alouf is the flagship community programme of Al Jalila Foundation, dedicated to supporting carers of children to enhance their quality of life. The charity relies on donations, with 100 per cent going directly to support those in need.

“Al Jalila Foundation deserves a special thank you. For me it is a real privilege to be involved in such a solid, well-informed programme,” Dr Ferreira added.

Dr Abdulkareem Al Olama, chief executive at the Al Jalila Foundation, said: “Ta’alouf is a programme dedicated to help children with special needs.

“We want communities and families to live in harmony with these children and we can help do that by first helping the parents.

“But for us to complete the cycle, we need to educate teachers so we can put the children back into mainstream education. There is a specialist curriculum and a graduation ceremony for those who have learnt these new skills.”