First Arabic app gives voice to autistic kids

First Arabic app gives voice to autistic kids
BabNoor has brought positive changes in Ahmed's life.

Dubai - BabNoor is the only Arabic app in world for special needs kids



by

Kelly Clarke

Published: Sat 27 Feb 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 29 Feb 2016, 7:25 AM

The Arabic phrase 'bab noor' loosely translates to 'door of light' in English. It is also the name of the world's first Arabic cloud-based application for children with autism - and it is lighting up the smiles of children with learning difficulties across the UAE.
One of these children is 13-year-old Dubai Autism Centre student, Ahmed Hegazy.
He was one of the first students to start using BabNoor and his mother, Eman Younis, told Khaleej Times it has brought on a lot of positive changes in just a short few months.
"I no longer have to play the guessing game with Ahmed. Before he would get angry as he couldn't tell me what he wanted but this app has made him so much more relaxed. And me too."
Younis said BabNoor has "filled the gap" for Arabic children with learning difficulties.
The impressive communication app was showcased to the public at du's Social Impact Hub at the Global Women's Forum Dubai last week, but it was first rolled out at the Dubai Autism Centre three months ago. BabNoor is now the only learning app for children with disabilities which communicates solely in Arabic, and it caters to the UAE's various GCC nationalities by operating in several different Arabic dialects.
"This app is revolutionising the life of parents of children with disabilities," Founder of BabNoor, Shadi Al-Hassan told Khaleej Times.
How it was developed
The idea to develop it first came when Al-Hassan noticed a "lack of Arabic communication tools" to help aid the development of children with learning difficulties here.
"Children with autism suffer from communication issues. They cannot express themselves and they get angry, frustrated, and that leads to their anti-social behaviour."
But it directly affects the parents too, he said.
"When we cannot communicate, we cannot teach. This app allows the parent to become the ultimate shadow teacher to their child."
Using a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) - a form of augmentative and alternative communication - the app uses easily identifiable icons to allow the child to communicate a sentence.
When the child presses the desirable icon, he/she will hear the voice of the device translate their request into the spoken Arabic word.
For Younis, BabNoor has given Ahmed a voice.
"This app motivates and encourages autistic children. It is their voice. Ahmed doesn't speak English so to have a dedicated app in Arabic helps his development so much. He is so much more independent now."
Though BabNoor is not actually available to download in the Apple store, the learning app has been rolled-out across disability training centres in the UAE.
At present, 450 students in the UAE are using the app and Al-Hassan said the goal is to reach a "wide-scale audience". "We upload the app to special needs training Centre's across the country. We want this to be available to every child with learning difficulties and every parent of that child. The aim is to direct it to NGOs and the private sector as they can influence a whole community."
kelly@khaleejtimes.com

13-year-old Dubai Autism Centre student, Ahmed Hegazy with his mother Eman Younis, father and sister. He was one of the first students to start using BabNoor app.— Supplied photos
13-year-old Dubai Autism Centre student, Ahmed Hegazy with his mother Eman Younis, father and sister. He was one of the first students to start using BabNoor app.— Supplied photos

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