In the beginning of this week I was on holidays in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and got the opportunity to visit Dubai Autism Center with my family. I think it was great to get an insight into, which possibilities autistic people have in different countries. Dubai autism center is the leading autism center in the GCC states (gulf countries). The biggest part of Dubai Autism Center is a school for autistic children. But they also have an assessment unit, so you can actually get diagnosed with autism there.
In each class there are only up to six students. Also, there are always two therapists and assisting staff, e.g. nannies and teaching aids. When we were shown around in the building, we even saw that there are several classes with less than six students. They always assess which level of autism the child has and put them in a matching class.
Dubai Autism Center doesn’t only have classrooms and therapy rooms, but they also have a lot of other facilities. They have two playgrounds, one for the younger and one for the older kids. Furthermore, there are two swimming pools and a rooftop terrace with a garden, where the children can learn how to plant flowers and take care of plants.
We first saw the therapy room for occupational therapy. We even talked to the occupational therapist and she was really great. She told us all about the tools she can use for the different challenges the children can have. Afterwards we also saw the rooms for art and music therapy. I was really impressed by all the paintings made by the kids. A lot of the children must be really talented.
There is an awesome sensory room at Dubai Autism Center. The flooring is really soft and there are different seating possibilities, e.g. a rocking chair and a waterbed.
Also, the light and the few sounds are extremely relaxing. Already after spending a few minutes in the sensory room, you are totally stress-relieved.
Zora – the robot
The robot assisted therapy is one of the favorite ones of the children. Zora, the robot, can talk to the kids and do exercises with them.
For example, the robot can ask the child to choose a specific card out of many and show it to Zora. Using cameras Zora can see if the kid selected the right card.
It feels like Dubai Autism Center has its own little cities for the children to train in. They have a fully furnished apartment, where the kids can learn managing a household. Also, they have a cinema, a barber shop and a gym. It might sound weird, why they for example need a cinema or a barber shop, but when you hear the explanation, it makes total sense.
There are so many autistic kids who are overwhelmed by being out in the world. A visit in the cinema or the barber shop can be extremely challenging with all the sensory input. So, it’s perfect that the children can train how those things work and maybe get used to them in a safe environment.
Working towards independence
One of the goals of Dubai Autism Center is to help the children get as independent as possible. After my visit there, I feel like they really do a great job. I think, it’s awesome that they have so many facilities, not only to teach the kids and do therapy but also to help them find out how to interact with people outside their school.
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