Nicholas James Vujicic is a popular name across the world. He is an inspirational speaker and motivator who often walks up to the stage and owns the crowd. Now that you have pictured the person in your head, did you know that he suffers from a sporadic disorder, tetra-amelia syndrome? Despite all the physical difficulties that he still encounters, he has set his mark on the world and established the narrative that nothing is impossible, no matter how tough the situation gets.
The world is a beautiful place and holds some stories that are not only inspiring but also life-changing for many. Significantly fewer people know that Walt Disney was also born with a special ability. And his quote, “It’s fun to do the impossible,” is still imparted in the success of Disney.
All these prominent personalities needed special care at some point in their lives. Even the Guinness World record-holding Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan suffered from dyslexia as a child and attended a special care center. Special care centers are meant for that reason, to care for and provide the required needs to the children who need it the most.
The childhood of children born with a special ability is quite challenging; they require constant care, attention and should be educated in a way that fits them in the world ideally. Dubai Center for Special Needs has taken up the responsibility to provide that special care for the special children of the world.
Dr. Mahshid Salehi, the Director of Dubai Center for Special Needs, has transformed the care center, dedicating it to providing the highest service standards in specialized education, vocational training, and therapy to children and young adults of determination.
Transformation Story of Five Aces to Dubai Center for Special Needs
The Dubai Center for Special Needs has had a humble beginning dating back to the late 1970s with a different name of ‘Five Aces.’ With the determination of five parents with special needs children, the inception story began in a villa donated by the Late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed AL Maktoum.
However, the school opened a new chapter in 1983 as the Board of Governors decided to dedicate their time and support the Center; hence, the school was renamed ‘The Aseef School.’
With constant progress, steadfast determination, and a will to succeed, the founder’s dream was set to become a reality. In 1995, the school moved to a customs facility and became the Dubai Center for Special Needs.
The Change Bringing Leader
Dr. Mahshid Salehi has dedicated her career to DCSN, and in the past 31 years of her journey with the DCSN, she has maintained very high educational standards. She is also the person responsible for the excellent training of the team, and with their support, she has taken DCSN to new heights.
Despite her significant role that contributes to every aspect of the Center, she emphasizes the philosophy, “it’s not about me, it’s all about providing the best for the children and young adults, whether that is through recruiting the best teachers and therapists for DCSN’s education and rehabilitation programs or ensuring the students are able to learn in a welcoming, safe and happy environment equipped with the latest possible technologies and therapy equipment.”
Providing the Highest Standards of Service
Dubai Center for Special Needs, a non-profit organization and school, has dedicated itself to providing the highest standards of service to children and young adults of determination.
Expressing her views on the learning outcome and course objectives, Dr. Mahshid Salehi says, “Our management and staff aim to improve the quality of life of people of determination by promoting their independence, productivity, inclusion, empowerment, and social participation in an integrated community setting.”
Maintaining High-quality Education
To maintain high-quality education at the school, Dubai Center for Special Needs partners with parents who are involved in the learning process of achieving the set goal. The Center, along with parents, teachers, staff members, therapists, and the management, work together to ensure that the children are in good hands and best practices and the highest education standards are met.
However, the school believes that continuous and rigorous assessment of student attainment is the key to maintaining the students’ quality education and learning outcomes. The Center has also developed a special individual education plan designed to cater to each student’s educational needs. The educational approach plan is reviewed and updated depending on the progress of the student.
Many DCSN students have been offered good jobs in reputable companies. A few examples are listed below:
- Professional chef in “Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel.”
- Accountant at “The One.”
- An employee at Social Programs and Services Sector in CDA (Community Development Authorities).
Adapting to the Modern Learning Methods eLearning
As all the schools in Dubai have implemented an eLearning system, DCSN thought that special needs children are no different. The systems adopted and implemented by the school are Seesaw and Zoom, which are used by many mainstream schools in Dubai and all around the world.
Explaining the challenges that were faced during the adoption and implementation of eLearning, Dr. Mahshid Salehi explains, “Teaching students with special needs has its own challenges. Students have either physical or mental disabilities or both and have to overcome many obstacles as they require constant human interaction and help with all their activities for daily living. However, thanks to our new online systems, students are able to engage with their teachers and therapists visually as well as hear them in order to continue their routines and exercises to stimulate the body and mind. With this new way of teaching, we were able to reach all our students and provide not only professional care but creative and thoughtful lessons that the parents and caregivers can enjoy too.”
“For some of our other students have been able to access the class timetable through the online platform Seesaw and continue to study as they would have if they were coming to the Center daily. Some of their classes also include music therapy, art, cooking, and physical education live on Zoom with the teachers,” Dr. Mahshid Salehi added.
Also, the Rehabilitation team provides consultations with parents regarding children’s health and well-being and updates the information online by posting videos and the information needed about cleanliness, hygiene, and its importance.
Student Engagement through Extra-curricular and Co-curricular Activities
Student engagement is considered a high priority at Dubai Center for Special Needs. The school involves and includes the special students in the preparation to successfully conduct any event. The students handle every aspect of the event, from costume preparation, props creation, lighting, stage set-up, music, sound management, etc.
Apart from that, horse riding, work placements, winter fair, annual concert, and sports day are some of the few activities that are included in the school’s curriculum.
Roadmap for the Future
Envisioning the future of the Dubai Center for Special Needs, Dr. Mahshid Salehi says, “To further promote the learning opportunities for the students, build relationships with the community including schools and companies, raise awareness for the Center, have more classes completing the ASDAN certifications.”
Achievements and Awards
- SHEIKHA LATIFA AWARD WINNERS
Year after year, DCSN students have been winning the first prize in different art projects.
- WINNER of TIME OUT DUBAI KIDS AWARDS 2015: Special recognition for the education of children with special needs.
- PRINCESS HAYA AWARD FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION: Certificate of Excellence, Outstanding Special Needs Center.
- UAE STAMP DESIGNED by DCSN STUDENTS: Drawings by DCSN students were selected to be adopted as UAE stamps.
- DCSN students Silver & Gold Medal holders at SPECIAL OLYMPICS GAMES
- 4 DCSN students won silver & gold medals in swimming, horse riding, gymnastics.
- DCSN student featured in the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.
Mission and Vision
- Promote independence, productivity, inclusion, empowerment, and social participation in integrated community settings for special children.
- Promote high-quality, effective community-based programs and social support services to individuals and their families.
- Promote the prevention of disabilities through training, public awareness, and services.
- Provide advocacy, interdisciplinary training, technical assistance, and information dissemination to accomplish the aims given above.
- All life has purpose and value.
- Every individual has unrealized potential for growth and the ability to learn and benefit from education, experience, and social relationships.
- The family is the first natural support and the fundamental unit of society.
- Every individual has the right to give and receive love and obtain the support needed to live as a community member.
- The acquisition of knowledge in the pursuit of truth is essential to human progress. It is mutually beneficial for people to live, work and associate with each other in an inclusive environment.
- The expression of individual uniqueness is essential to personal development; therefore, diversity should be respected.
- Society is enriched by the understanding and integration of all members of society.
- Every individual is entitled to effective education, treatment, and to services consistent with their own unique needs.
- All people deserve dignity and high-quality services and support. Abuse, neglect, and discrimination are unacceptable.
- Coordination and cooperation between educators, other organizations in society, the family, and the individual are all essential in promoting and encouraging opportunities for a better quality of life.
- When freedom, support, and resources are given, people can live according to their own definition of quality life.