ABU DHABI // A centre that will eventually cater for 108 pupils with autism has opened.
The New England Centre for Children (Necc) Abu Dhabi, which is based on a US model, opened its doors in Mohammed bin Zayed City late last month, with the official launch on Tuesday.
It has 42 pupils aged between 3 and 9. Another 20 children are being taught separately in inclusion and transition programmes. Each group of six pupils is looked after by seven teachers, a mix of expatriate and local staff.
Autism is a developmental disability that affects how a person relates to other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world.
Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), says there are there are 1,466 children up to the age of 14 living in the capital who could benefit from this sort of centre.
It consists of two buildings: one for residential pupils and one for educational purposes. The second includes, a gym, a pool and a library.
Having started work in the UAE in 2005, originally in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, or Seha, Necc then linked up with Adec in 2010 while awaiting the centre's completion.
As well as offering much-needed services to children with autism, and assisting their families, Necc aims to help as many of the children as it can to eventually join a mainstream school, said Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, director general of Adec.
"In this part of the world, they did not used to merge them in the schools," Dr Al Khaili added. "This year, we have merged 70. To give them the opportunity to learn, it's our duty."
Learning also extends beyond school hours, with families receiving help on a weekly and monthly basis.
"When a child enrols here, it's not just the child, it's the whole family that enrols," said Dr Daniel Gould, chief clinical officer for Necc Abu Dhabi.