“In my view, the biggest problem is not necessarily dealing with students with disability, but finding the teachers qualified to teach those students. A lot of people have a tendency to treat them as disabled. But while you have to be more than sensitive to the issue, you also have to understand their needs well enough to be able to cultivate other talents they may have,” he said.
Noting the importance of integrating special needs students into mainstream education and ensuring “inclusiveness”, Dr Ibrahim pointed out that this also ensures that other students get to be sensitive about their peer’s limitations. He added that other countries in the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia, have a high percentage of special needs students integrated into mainstream schools.
Speaking to reporters on Monday during the launch of ‘The International Conference on Special Education’, Dr Ibrahim underscored the importance of discovering students who have very high IQ levels and creative talent early into the education process, and in developing their full potential.
The conference, which will be hosted by ADU on October 30 and 31, targets teachers, academics, education advisors, government representatives and parents to discuss the government and educational institutions’ roles in nurturing and supporting gifted students.
The forum aims to address various issues including how to benchmark gifted students in mainstream classrooms, learning the importance of developing and investing in gifted and special needs programmes in UAE schools, and discussion of the current inclusion models in UAE and Oman. “It takes more than just sitting in a classroom; it has a lot more to understanding the student, their needs and working with them individually and in a custom-designed (setting),” said Dr Ibrahim, adding that the university has a role to play in preparing teachers who are capable of discovering students early on and getting them to be nurtured within the mainstream of the education process.
According to Kmar Cherif, events manager, The Special Care Centre in Abu Dhabi, the centre’s programme helps prepare its students get integrated into the mainstream society.
“We have three students who have left us, one joined a high school in Al Bahia, one went to a university in India and the other is now working in a company doing filing and computer work,” she told Khaleej Times.
There are currently around 12 physically disabled students enrolled at ADU this academic year.
“Our philosophy is not to isolate them but to integrate them into our classes but provide them with what they need. So we work with them in custom - designing what works for them and then we provide them with the tools to do it,” Dr Ibrahim said noting that they were accepted at ADU after passing the university’s academic admission requirement.
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