In their aim to provide treatment services to Emirati students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the New England Center for Children (NECC), which operates in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), has relocated its services to a larger facility located in Mohammed Bin Zayed City.
This new state of the art building was designed to be a premier facility for children with autism.
ADEC Prior to its transfer to ADEC in January 2010, NECC Abu Dhabi operated in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) since 2007.
There are currently in Abu Dhabi an estimated 1,466 Emirati children from birth to 14 years of age who can benefit from a specialized ASD programme. By the year 2020 this number will increase to approximately 1,655.
“As part of ADEC’s 10 Year Strategic Plan to offer all students quality education regardless of their background, ethnicity or condition, ADEC has partnered with NECC to help offer transitional students some of the world’s best educational systems, with assisted equipment and facilities that can help ease the process for both therapists and the children themselves,” said H.E. Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, ADEC’s Director General.
Autism is a disorder of brain development and a developmental disorder with onset in infancy. Young children with autism do not learn from their environment like typical children do, thus development does not proceed normally.
Most children with autism have language deficits, lack social behaviors such as eye contact, and may engage in repetitive or unusual behaviors. Many children with autism will learn when given highly structured and consistent teaching that requires them to participate actively in their education.
The condition appears to be genetically determined, and is the fastest growing developmental disability occurring in all racial, ethnic and social groups. It is approximately four times more likely to affect boys than girls. When fully operational the facility will have the capacity to provide services for 108 students including a short term residential programme for 24 children.
H.E Saif Bader Al Qubaisi, Chairman and Managing Director of the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) praised the educational and specialized care for autistic children in the U.A.E. and showed his deep gratitude for the collaborative efforts of the NECC, ADEC, SEHA and the private project team who have studied the design and implementation of the project.
He added, “Our vision is to establish an integrated chain of care for differently abled learners who have autism. The center aims to provide a specialized educational curriculum for autistic children, integrate them into society, and create the social awareness required to accept cases of autism.”
SEHA had built the center and, upon completion, handed it over to ADEC. The Center was created on an area of 13 thousand square meters and consists of two buildings: one for residential children and another for autistic educational purposes. The education building accommodates 100 students consisting of 4 floors and includes administration offices, classrooms, restaurants, a gymnasium, and clinic, library to support teachers, basement for parking, and an indoor swimming pool located on the top floor.
The apartment building housing children is comprised of four suites, with each suite consisting of six rooms. In addition, there are two floors of rooms designed for in-house supervisors and includes places to familiarize students with ways to behave while at home, thereby easing the pressure on their families. The children’s building also includes a sports stadium, gardens, games and a library.
This center is designed in a contemporary manner and according to the highest international engineering standards in building and planning. The interior space, from the choice of colors to proximity awareness for anticipated movements of children, are all in line with the guidelines of specialized global consulting firms acting in full coordination with autistic health experts as well as the collaborative input of the NECC.
The structure and design of the building derives from its function of creating an optimum environment for children with ASD, with every design nuance in the learning and living facilities being carefully considered.
Mr. Vincent Strully, CEO and Founder of NECC, said, “NECC, in collaboration with the ADEC, is charged with providing world-class care and treatment for children with autism in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, with the aim of offering direct service to children and their families, education and professional development for service providers and research in best treatment practices for autism and related disabilities. The opening of this new facility establishes Abu Dhabi as a world leader in the treatment of autism.”
The NECC has more than 37 years of experience treating children with autism in the United States. During this time, NECC has developed the Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia (ACE), an effective curriculum based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and empirically-based treatment.
ACE teaches the fundamental skills and concepts that are often lacking in children with autism, for example, communication, socialization, play skills, and academics.
“We are certain that our children in NECC will receive some of the world’s highest assistance and care. When the centre first started it consisted of therapists from the US. Now, more than half the staff members working in the centre consist of Arabic speakers, mostly Emirati and from the Gulf region. This is a positive sign since it shows that awareness regarding transitional children is increasing in the Gulf Region, which helps ease our journey towards integration and inclusion for special needs students,” said Dr. Al Khaili.
Mr. Adam Hughes, Education Special Programmes Section Manager at ADEC praised the ADEC NECC partnership which continues to educate children with autism and raise awareness amongst parents who are unfamiliar with the condition. “The NECC provides a highly structured, intensive learning environment that engages students through a consistent individualized academic, behavioral and social programme.
NECC Abu Dhabi also provides free monthly training seminars to the general public. These are open to parents, teachers, and anyone who has an interest in learning more about effective autism treatment.
Dr. Daniel Gould, Chief Clinical Officer for the NECC Abu Dhabi, advises parents who are suspicious about their young children to seek immediate screening for autism, “There are early autism signs among young babies. For example if your baby does not smile often or show joyful expressions by six months; doesn’t share sounds or facial expressions by 9 months; no babbling by 12 months; no back and forth gestures such as pointing, reaching or waving by 12 months; no two-word meaningful phrases by 24 months; no response when child’s name is called by 10 months and finally any loss of speech or social skills at any age.”
Parents who are suspicious about their young children should contact the local health authority to arrange for a screening for autism. Approximately 67 million people worldwide are affected by autism. “Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the world. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with diabetes, cancer, and AIDS combined,” concluded Dr. Gould.