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Special Needs in the UAE: An Author’s View

Aspergers1-638x358As an author of six books on Asperger Syndrome, it is natural that I am asked by friends and acquaintances, and complete strangers who found my name on the web, how well Dubai caters for those on the autistic spectrum and for special needs generally. Unfortunately, in the past, I was unable to give an informed answer. My children left Dubai schooling years ago, and I had not set foot in a special needs centre in Dubai in a very long time. However, I do know that when I last looked, about six years ago, there were a few very dedicated overworked people, struggling on limited resources, who tried their best to cope with the ever increasing number of autistic and special needs children and adults living in, and coming to, Dubai. Many families were forced to leave Dubai to get expert help. I would have said, back then, that Dubai as a whole did not cater all that well for special needs.

This all changed when the staff of Kinokuniya, that huge bookstore in the Dubai Mall, approached my UK publisher, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, at the London Book Fair. Kinokuniya wanted to give back to the Dubai community by helping to highlight Autism and Asperger Syndrome in the region. Jessica Kingsley told them about my latest book, Inside Asperger’s Looking Out, and soon I was approached to do a signing.

My first thought was, will anyone come? It’s every author’s nightmare –at a signing desk, pen ready, welcoming smile fixed on your face – sitting completely, utterly, alone. To ward off the ultimate shame of no one turning up, I decided to call a few centres who deal with autism and Asperger’s to see if anyone would be interested in hearing me speak and seeking my signature. I guessed that there were five centres in Dubai, maybe six, tops, that focussed on the autistic spectrum. Half an hour of calls, I thought, and hopefully I could muster a small crowd on the day who would be interested in hearing and reading about a different insight to Asperger Syndrome.

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