Dubai Special Needs: Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Dubai Special Needs: Autistic Spectrum Disorder
By C Hoppe
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What you should know about Autism care in Dubai:

Assessment/diagnosis services vary wildly in price and quality, get informed before you begin the process

Medical care and therapy is extremely costly: Find out from your medical insurance company what you can and can’t claim for BEFORE you start diagnosis

Educational options vary in service and price, discuss the service and ask their percentages of children integrated annually into mainstream schools before you register

Most centres have long waiting lists; get your name down as soon as you can

Presently it’s extremely difficult for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to secure secondary school places: think carefully and long term before making decisions

Recently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) made the decision to merge each previously recognised autistic disorder under one umbrella term, ‘Autism Spectrum Disorders’ (ASD). This means conditions such as Asperger’s, autistic disorder and childhood disintegrative disorder, will no longer be acknowledged as independent conditions. How this will affect future diagnosis and education of children with ASD, only time will tell.

Diagnosis & Assessment
As with all special educational needs early intervention is essential for any child to reach their full potential. Therefore timely diagnosis/assessment and treatment is imperative. Parents of children born prematurely, with low birth weights or who have other family members with the condition, also need to be aware that their child has an increased likelihood of ASD.

To ensure early detection health and developmental checks with a good paediatrician should take place at nine, eighteen and twenty-four months. If your paediatrician finds any cause for concern, he or she should be able to recommend a developmental psychologist or child psychologist/neurologist that they’ve worked with before to assess the child.

ASD is usually diagnosed at a young age; (18 months to three years old) however it can be missed -- either wilfully due to cultural beliefs or sometimes when a child has experienced inconsistent paediatric care.

There is no definitive test for ASD; instead a team of professionals completes a series of tests and observations before diagnosis is made.

Treatment & Intervention
Sadly, ASD has the dubious title of being linked to more controversial therapies and treatments than any other special educational need (SEN). Although parents in Dubai are faced with a slew of options in treating their child, not all are necessarily effective or even evidence based. For this reason, parents should ensure they have a trusted paediatrician and/or psychologist with whom they can discuss options.

Because every child is unique, no child with ASD should have the same diagnosis. It is essential you empower yourself as a parent and learn as much as you can about ASD, effectively become THE expert on YOUR child.

Dubai offers numerous private, not for profit and government provided ‘learning centres’ that prepare mild to moderate ASD children for inclusion in mainstream schools. It’s important to note, that many of these centres and the curriculums they use are not recognised by the KHDA and vary greatly in quality and consistency. For this reason, it’s essential that parents visit the schools and discuss the curriculum thoroughly before registering their child.

Services in these centres can range from little more than ‘day-care’ at one end of the spectrum to highly structured learning, based on IEPs and a modified curriculum at the other. Specialised learning centres are like everything in Dubai, you get what you pay for, and costs range from between Dhs 25,000 to Dhs 150,000+.

Although mainstream schools remain tight lipped on their admission policy for children with ASD, many learning centres maintain positive working relationships with those that do accept ASD children and have had many successes in having their students admitted.

Let them advise on which schools to approach for admission when your child is ready for inclusion into mainstream education.

When choosing a mainstream school ask about:

Does the school allow for an IEP: discuss who will devise it, how it will be monitored and how feedback will be given

Do they have policy on supplying a shadow?

Does the staff have an understanding of the disorder and are there other children with ASD in the school?

Are they open to using alternative communication strategies such as the computer programme Proloquo2go?

Is there a defined policy and staff strategy for excited or upset children?

Can they provide a ‘safe base’ for the child when he or she feels overwhelmed?

Dubai Special Educational Needs - Start Here
Dubai Special Educational Needs - School Inclusion, Is it Working?
Dubai Special Educational Needs - What are they and How to Spot Them
Dubai Special Educational Needs - Diagnosis and Assessment
Dubai Special Educational Needs - A Q and A with Diagnosis Specialists
Dubai Special Educational Needs - Occupational Therapy Q and A
Dubai Special Educational Needs - What is ADHD?
Dubai Special Educational Needs - Applied Behaviour Analysis
Dubai Special Educational Needs - Speech Therapy
Dubai Special Educational Needs - Specific Learning Difficulties
Dubai Special Educational Needs - Downs Syndrome
Dubai Special Educational Needs - Autistic Spectrum Disorder

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