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Emirati Mother of a Dyslexic Son to open Learning Centre in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI // The mother of a dyslexic teenager has opened a learning centre for youngsters with the condition.

Emirati Ms. Shereen Al Nowais was inspired to launch such a facility after experiencing first-hand the challenges of having a child with the learning disability.

She first noticed that her eldest son Mohamed, now 18, had difficulties when he started school. Teachers thought he was lazy and he was struggling academically.

Ms. Shereen Al Nowais , from Abu Dhabi, took him from one school to another in the hope that he would improve but there was no support for dyslexics in this country.

“I noticed his problem late and since then I began researching about learning difficulties,” she said. “I read the symptoms of certain disabilities and that is when I realised he was dyslexic.

“I saw my son suffer and so did I with him. I felt his pain as he was growing up. I witnessed the change in his behaviour. That is why I decided to open a centre.”

The Ta’leem Training and Skills Development Centre is due to open next month in the capital’s Al Nahyan area and is the first centre of its kind in the UAE.

It will provide support, cognitive assessments, tests in Arabic and English, and will check a child’s performance.

“We need this kind of service to raise awareness to the community that such difficulties do exist, and many parents are not aware of their own children’s suffering,” Ms. Shereen Al Nowais said. “Children suffering from these difficulties have to be treated differently and they require a different teaching approach, as well as extra timing in exams and individual attention.”

The assessments will be carried out by a psychologist, Dr Jennie Guise. Among the tests are verbal, visual, written expression and an IQ test.

“A full assessment tells us about the strengths of the child, as well as pointing out areas that might be weaker,” Dr Guise said.

“From this, it is possible to provide detailed and tailored recommendations that will help the child to understand how he or she learns, or how to improve core literacy skills and academic performance.

“It is very important to recognise the skills and talents that dyslexic people can show, if they are given the right conditions for learning and demonstrating their knowledge. It is often said that dyslexic people can be creative thinkers, good at problem solving and innovative thinkers.

“Often, the dyslexic person has learnt to be very resourceful and has developed a good work ethic because of the challenges that he or she sometimes faces. These skills are very valuable to the nation.”

Another expert at the centre, Dr Gad Elbeheri, said Ta’leem would enhance and support the country’s learning goals.

“It will assist in destigmatising the negative image that learning disabilities have among parents and individuals, assist in identifying those at risk from learning challenges and provide easy and convenient assessment protocols, which is the first step towards assisting individuals with learning challenges,” he said.

“It will provide intervention sessions for both the cognitive and educational needs of individuals to help them achieve at school, remove barriers to learning and enable knowledge to be transferred into local circles by closely collaborating with the Ministry of Education.”

The centre has the support of the ministry, Abu Dhabi Education Council and Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training. It is sponsored by Abu Dhabi University. Children of all nationalities are welcome to attend.

“My aim is to raise awareness in the country – to show that regardless of challenges, students are able to be successful, not only academically but also socially,” Ms. Shereen Al Nowais said.

“The children will give back to the country. They will have the confidence to reap and be effective in the future.”

Ms. Shereen Al Nowais hopes her personal experiences will encourage others to open up about similar issues.

“I am sure that every individual has great capabilities, and each has the strength to grow,” she said. “For them to grow we must move from the beginning, to try to help our children before its too late.”

After Ta’leem opens, it will hold a number of workshops to help parents understand symptoms, how to deal with difficulties, and how to provide a supporting environment at home and at school.

For more information, visit taleemcentre.com.