Teaching, healing, and connecting: Safe Centre for Autism supports children and families through pandemic uncertainty
With the recent World Autism Awareness Day, the Emirates Airline Foundation placed the spotlight on the hurdles that children with autism faced in the last year, and the important role that special educational institutions play in ensuring these children fulfil their potential by providing them with access to the programs and resources they needed.
The Safe Centre for Autism opened its new facility for children’s special education needs in 2019, only to shut its doors to support the UAE government’s efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. The 2020 school closures presented unique challenges for many children and young adults, but it was particularly disruptive to children on the autism spectrum who thrive on routine and stability.
Children at the Safe Centre typically received in-person instruction and therapy five days a week, and the lockdown meant a disruption to those personalized interactions, potentially causing a loss of critical social and communication skills. The Safe Centre team was on hand to support parents, providing online instruction to children where possible and guiding parents with practical, safe strategies and activities to help meet the sensory and motor needs of their children while at home.
When it was time to come back to Safe Centre, the team helped transition the children to return to their educational settings successfully with a special two-month program. The program included dividing students into different groups, focusing on one-to-one activities, as well as directly teaching, modeling and practicing routines and behaviors to alleviate student anxiety as they returned to their educational settings.
Safe Centre was able to gradually build up its schedule from three to five days a week. The school is currently supporting 52 students on the autism spectrum, facilitating classes and sessions for four students per classroom in accordance with Covid-19 precautionary measures. All safety measures and hygiene standards continue to be adhered to in the classrooms and across the Safe Centre facilities.
Support of the newly built Safe Centre facilities is part of Emirates Airline Foundation’s positive work that supports communities in providing children with opportunities to realise their full potential.
The Emirates Airline Foundation has been supporting Safe Centre since 2012, and more recently helped fund its new 20,000 square foot state-of-the-art facilities to accommodate and support more than 100 children. Safe Centre moved into its new facility in January 2019, after construction was completed on the new building.
The Safe Centre facilities include 12 classrooms, which are all connected to their own private, small play areas and restrooms so teaching staff can easily observe students practicing daily hygiene activities. In addition, all classrooms are equipped with their own smart boards, telecommunications tools, and a number of other resources that are readily available to be used at any time. There are also three speech and occupational therapy rooms, equipment rooms, designated sensory areas, a library, dining rooms, indoor and outdoor play areas, a swimming pool, music and art facilities, a vocational room, as well as a conference room, clinic and nurse station.
Safe Centre has also been working with the Ministry of Community Development to add two new services, which include vocational training and teaching of life skills to enable those with autism to productively enter the workforce. Safe Centre is also providing one-to-one sessions to provide speech and occupational therapy, which are both essential for students with autism. Safe Centre also has a resident Board-Certified Behaviour Analyst who supervises and actively manages the children’s progress to ensure that they are achieving their goals. The Safe Centre is currently utilizing the VB-MAPP curriculum, which is designed specifically for children with autism.
Established in 2010, the Safe Centre for Autism is a not-for-profit, special education center in the UAE that caters for students who struggle with behavioral or developmental difficulties, Autism, speech and language delays, and sensory deficits.
To donate, and for more information about the Safe Centre and other Emirates Airline foundation projects visit: www.emiratesairlinefoundation.org.