Kids progress at different rates and have various ways in which they learn best. Others go through normal growth and development, and others have learning problems that make it harder for them to learn than most children the same age. This is where Engr. Li H. Schonberg, a mechatronic Robotics Engineer with a degree in Social Psychology Master of Studies in Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), bridges the gap for students with special needs in the UAE. 

Through her QAT Kid’s Development Centre, an Abu Dhabi-based specialized centre for students on the autism spectrum, they transform hopelessness into hope for parents. They work wholeheartedly with all children to achieve their full potential. 

According to Engr. Li, in their QAT’s SPED department, they have trained teachers using a variety of techniques to teach students with varying levels of autism academic skills with innovative teaching styles in communication and STEAM, an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. 

“Our goal is to provide innovative support for children with developmental disabilities and their families. We help them build independence, achieve personal goals and strengthen community participation. We want to dedicate the SPED department to helping students and their families with disabilities towards a brighter future,” the entrepreneur, a SEND certified and ABA therapist, said. 

Composed of a professional team, QAT Kid’s Development Centre comprehensively addresses each individual’s learning program and emotional and social needs in a proactive concept. The centre has two key personnel: Miss Hiyas H. Nora, an expert in auditory-visual integration, and Miss Doaa Farghaly, a STEAM expert.

Engr. Li’s knowledge in robotics for autism is a significant boost to integrating the designed lesson inside the classroom into STEAM activities. This approach helps kids with autism to conquer challenges in particular and enjoy the engagement with other kids at school. 

Apart from having interactive teachers, they also have robot assistant teachers to facilitate the required modified lessons for every child.

‘Parent-in-denial’

Engr. Li said that there are still parents who are in denial about their kids probably being on the autism spectrum or lack of autism’ acceptance’. These are parents who won’t and can’t accept the situation of their kids. They are often described as ‘parents-in-denial.’ 

“They must understand that the repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviors or no interests in learning and oral-motor impairment are not normal. And this is the reason why we provide interventions to parents as well because it should be a unity between them and us,” she said. 

She added that it is vital for other parents to accept that their child might require special help or education. 

“Parents’ acknowledgment, support, and participation are key to the success of our program,” she further added. 

She admits that one of the issues parents with a special child faces is financial constraints. Parents would think that a centre for kids with autism comes with a huge amount. 

But in reality, there are still centres that offer a high standard of service at an affordable cost, one of which is the QAT Kid’s Development Centre.