Emirates Airline Foundation-supported Safe Centre for Autism supports children and families amidst the pandemic

Through its foundation, Emirates Airline joined the international community in celebrating the 14th annual World Autism Awareness Day by putting the spotlight on the hurdles that children with autism faced in last year, and the important role that special educational institutions play in ensuring that these children fulfill their potential. The pandemic has undoubtedly impacted each one of us but the Emirates Airline Foundation continues on to provide them access to educational programs and resources they needed.

The Safe Centre for Autism opened its new facility for children’s special education needs in 2019, but had to shut down its doors following the UAE government’s efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. The 2020 school closure 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. On hand support to parents was given through out this pandemic uncertainty. The Safe Centre team provided online instruction to children where possible and guided 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's return to their educational settings successfully through its a special two-month program. The said 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 settled back.

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 inside the classrooms and across the Safe Centre facilities.

Keeping up the newly -built Safe Centre facilities is part of Emirates Airline Foundation’s advocacy that supports communities in providing autistic children with opportunities to realize 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 cater to more than 100 children. Safe Centre moved into its new facility in January 2019, after the new building construction was completed.

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 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. Moreover, Safe Centre offers one-on-one to speech and occupational therapy sessions, which are essential for students with autism. Safe Centre 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 non-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.

Visit www.emiratesairlinefoundation.org for more information about the Safe Centre and other Emirates Airline foundation projects.