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Disabled centre in Fujairah struggles to handle increasing number of autistic children

FUJAIRAH // A centre for the disabled wants more classrooms and teaching staff to deal with a growing number of autistic pupils.

Dibba Al Fujairah Rehabilitation Centre for the Disabled started operating in 2002 to teach 12 children with intellectual and physical disabilities. Today, there are 59 aged between 4 and 18, with another five helped by outside support services.

Thirteen of children are autistic, and there are three classrooms available.

“Autistic children need extra supervision and care, that’s why we can’t put more than four in each class,” said Mona Hilal, the centre manager.

“The number of children with autism is increasing, especially as awareness (of the condition) is also increasing in the region and we can’t accept more students until we open more classrooms.”

Ms Hilal said that the centre has applied with the Ministry of Community Development to build an extension but that approval has yet to be granted, as is also the case with the centre hiring more staff.

“We serve about 22 areas and an expansion is needed. We are looking to have a separate, fully equipped section for autism, with six to eight classes, and also we need more autism teachers and at least three more assistant teachers,” she said.

The centre deals with four types of disorders and it has four specialists and 14 teachers.

“We deal with children who have intellectual disabilities, multiple disabilities, autistic and development delay. We need more facilities like a new playing ground, more classrooms and a nursery for our employees’ children,” she said.

One of the teachers said that an autistic child needs double the attention of children with intellectual disabilities.

“Most of the autistic children can’t express themselves. They face an issue when it comes to socialising with others and therefore they need extra care, room and attention,” said Ayisha Al Hamoudi.

“Having more space and more specialised teachers will definitely help in accepting more students and will allow us to provide the needed care.”

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The National