Modern Alternative Education (MAE) is a non-profit special education center structured as a school. The center was founded to provide the best possible education for children with mild to moderate learning difficulties or delays aged between 6 – 18 years old.
Modern Alternative Education caters for children with Special Educational Needs, and aims to "fill the existing gap between mainstream schools and special needs centers".
WSA visit - January 25, 2017
Set up in a large villa, close to a well-known supermarket in Umm Suqeim 1, the opening of Modern Alternative Education has been a very personal journey for Founder and Managing Director, Rana Akad Attasi. Previously involved with Autism Dubai, Rana’s own experience as the parent of a non-verbal child on the Autism spectrum, prompted her to spend 4 years planning the opening of her Learning Delay Centre.
Walking into the garden of the property, it is clear that a considerable investment has taken place, with attractive grounds, play equipment for younger children, a large open space for ball play and exercise and individual garden plots arranged for each child. The building itself is a traditional two storey villa with the usual layout of large living rooms on the ground floor and bedrooms (which have been converted to classrooms) on the second. The building has been painted in muted tones and rooms are set up with appropriate tables and chairs. An open plan lounge space on the ground floor as been converted into a TV room/cinema, whilst a Sensory Room has been incorporated into a smaller space. Special equipment such as massage jackets, vibrating cushions and learning resources have been imported especially – mainly from the US.
With the capacity to support a total of 50 children, 11 children - with conditions ranging from Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, Non-verbal and physical and developmental disabilities between the ages of 6 and 18 years - currently attend MEA. Programmes offered at the Centre are based on those offered by the Little Friends Centre for Autism in Naperville, Illinois, USA, together with the K12 on-line curriculum and the mainstream Clonlara programme from Ann Arbour, Michigan, USA designed to support children from grades 5 – 12 which can be adapted to different learning styles and needs. Social skills are taught through the Rainbow Circle approach. Children following the programmes will be able to obtain certificates from these two US based educational institutes.
The individual schedule is a mix of academic, social and vocational skills. Children are grouped by academic ability rather than age. Lessons are 25 minutes each in length with a 5 minute break between lessons to allow children to spend time in the Sensory or Occupational Therapy rooms, the outside space which includes a garden for each child and to refocus. A core area of focus is the development of self-sufficiency and independence among the students. Each child is allocated a task appropriate to their ability such as Register Monitor, Plant watering, Snack break helper and so on.
In addition to the Music room and cinema room, the Life Skills programme is taught through the use of a bedroom and bathroom, set up for self-care, where students are taught to make their own bed, dress themselves and look after their personal hygiene. A kitchen is under construction that will allow students to learn to prepare food for themselves.
The centre operates Academic classes from 8.30am to 12pm and from 12.30 to 2pm, the focus turns to social and Life skills. MEA offers parents the option of a Full day programme (including both the Academic and Life Skills programme) or a blended half day programme where students will follow one or other programme.
Children are accepted at the Centre based on an initial assessment which focuses on the child’s ability to learn. Based on this initial assessment, a team of specialist staff, including the Head of Education, a Board-certified Behavioural Analyst and a full-time Masters’ degree qualified occupational Therapist, carry out a detailed 3 hour assessment to set an Individual Education programme including a Sensory diet, vocational programme and Occupational Therapy.
The aim of the Centre is to push and challenge students to be as independent as possible. With almost one-to-one attention and 3 different levels of support, Modern Alternative Education is offering something very different. Although there are 11 such Centres in the US offering a similar programme, there is only one other in this region.
Fees reflect the dedicated and personalised nature of the programme at AED 78,000 per year for a full time student. Rana intends to run the Centre as a not-for-profit organisation, but not as a charity.
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