WhichSchoolAdvisor.com spoke to Jason Garner, Clinical Director at the Child Early Intervention Medical Center, to find out his views on SEN in Dubai and exactly what parents should expect from an Applied Behaviour Analysis session.
Tell us about the role of an ABA?
Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) emphasises the principles of learning and motivation. It’s used in the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), developmental delays, behavioural problems, special education and even in regular education.
ABA can be used in many settings which includes: one-on-one structured teaching, small group teaching, in mainstream classrooms and with community based intervention (CBI.) It’s used to reduce maladaptive and/or stereotypic behaviour, while increasing functional and relevant skills giving individuals with developmental delays the tools they need to reach their full potential.
ABA therapy should begin as soon as the child has been diagnosed or as early as possible, but it has no upper age limit. It’s been proven to increase IQ, adaptive, social, language and academic skills and can help children get that place at mainstream school.
Tell us about SEN in Dubai?
As SEN are rapidly on the rise, Dubai is working to develop and expand its current scope of services. Federal Law 29 is starting to circulate and families are beginning to exercise their rights. The combination of these two issues has finally pushed schools to develop and/or expand their SEN services. Currently though, there are only a few schools across Dubai that have established and credible SEN departments; sadly, the demand far exceeds the supply.
Although there are many schools beginning to provide SEN services, there’s an issue of quality. The main issue is lack of awareness and professional development required to more adequately and successfully support students with special needs.
Unfortunately I don’t have specific statistics on the scope SEN currently being addressed; however, the majority is certainly directed at individuals on the Autism spectrum. This is problematic as it doesn’t reach many other individuals that require support and it currently does not specifically account for the change in the definition of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs.) That said there are many schools seeking support for children that may not have a formal diagnosis, which are often characterised as ‘at risk.’
What part do you play in SEN diagnosis and assessment?
The diagnosis and assessments of SEN (psycho-educational, psychosocial, and diagnostic evaluations) are done through our clinical psychologists or developmental paediatrician who carry out a range of assessments.
They have a key role in not only diagnosis but also the treatment and monitoring of children with any type of disability. The problem in Dubai is that people don’t consider assessments to be compulsory for all children that have formal diagnoses or for those that are deemed ‘at risk.’ More specifically, initial assessments are required prior to treatment and on-going assessments should be done to evaluate the efficacy of the treatment.
Once assessments occur, the ABA supervisor’s role is to interpret the results and then develop a comprehensive treatment plan. Once the plan is finalised, individualised goals need to be established by taking into account the learner's specific strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, rates of acquisition, prompting needs and hours of treatment.
Treatment should be based on what’s developmentally and/or functionally appropriate for the individual. Due to the fact that there are a broad range of skill areas such as behaviour, communication, sociability, self-care, play and leisure, social and emotional, motor development and academic skills, it’s strongly recommended that a multidisciplinary team be established with each specialist providing the goals and objectives for their area of specialty.
What do you see as the biggest issues in the field of ABA and special education needs in Dubai?
• The high cost of services
• The lack of proper initial and on-going assessment
• The lack of expertise in developing and monitoring effective treatment plans
• The lack of awareness, training and support provided to schools
• Limited family involvement
• The limited number of schools that accept SEN children
• The limited number of seats available in those schools that do accept SEN children
• Parents endure hardships just to be able to get their kids into mainstream education, e.g. some drive up to two hours each way across Dubai
• A lack of alternative learning centers for those individuals that are not ready for mainstream schooling
Talk us through a typical ABA session?
A typical ABA session begins with collecting the child from the parent or caregiver, at the same time they give an update on the child’s current demeanor. Then the therapist enters the room with the child and the child’s materials, including the Logbook, where all the data is collected.
The therapist interacts with the child and then checks the Logbook to review information from previous sessions, check for any updates or program revisions, review specific teaching techniques for that child, and anything else that might be new.
The therapist then gets the material prepared. If a structured program is required, he/she calls the child to the teaching area and begins instructing the specific skill. If a more generalised approach is required, the therapist goes to the child and works the specific targets into the activity the child has initiated or is engaged in.
Regardless of the teaching approach, therapists are continually taking behavioural and skill acquisition data throughout the session. The data is also summarised and plotted onto graphs for easier analysis by supervisors. Therapists also play and interact with the child, providing reinforcement throughout and any sensory stimulation that may be required.
What questions should parents ask when choosing an ABA?
• How will my child be assessed and how will the results manifest into his/her treatment?
• What is the background and training of the therapist and supervisory staff?
• Where will the services be administered – i.e., centre, home, school, community?
• What teaching approach will be used?
• To what extent can the parents/siblings be involved?
• Can I observe sessions?
• How will the therapist manage any manifesting behavioral issues?
• What are the costs of the treatment?
• How long should the services be required?
• How individualised is my son/daughters program?
• When can I receive the goals and objectives?
• How will the therapy help my son or daughter in their quest to enter mainstream education?
• How often does the team receive feedback?
• What type of on-going training is provided to parents and staff?
To speak to Jason contact the: The Child Early Intervention Medical Center, Al Razi Building, Block B, Suite 2010, Dubai Health Care City, Dubai. www.childeimc.com
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