Pandemic puts spotlight on special needs education in Saudi Arabia

Pandemic puts spotlight on special needs education in Saudi Arabia
According to the Saudi Education Ministry’s numbers in 2019, there are more than 76,000 special needs students in the Kingdom. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 13 February 2021

Pandemic puts spotlight on special needs education in Saudi Arabia

Pandemic puts spotlight on special needs education in Saudi Arabia
  • Distance learning has posed great challenges in KSA but has also brought a rethink in approach

JEDDAH: Almost a year has passed since more than 6 million students in Saudi Arabia were sent home from school at the start of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

The shift to distance learning has been difficult for all children worldwide; however, it posed particular challenges for children with special needs, their families and their teachers.
According to the Saudi Education Ministry’s numbers in 2019, there are more than 76,000 special needs students in the Kingdom. These students are eligible for special education services designed to help them succeed in school. However, those services are not always easily transferred to distance learning or even in-person learning with social distancing.
“While the pandemic has definitely had an impact on everyone, face-to-face learning or direct therapeutic services are very important for special needs and disabled children,” Dr. Faisal Al-Nemary, chief operating officer at the Autism Center of Excellence (ACE), told Arab News.
Despite the challenges, the sudden shift to virtual education had a bright side too, as more parents are involved in their children’s educational process, and they are more aware of their role in helping their children improve their skills, said Al-Nemary, who is an adviser to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development on autism and disability-related issues.
“This is very important,” he said. “In the past, it used to be very difficult to get the family involved in the educational and therapy process. However, due to this urgent situation where children are no longer spending around 20 hours at school per week, parents have no choice but to get involved.
“We should capitalize in these challenging times by keeping the family more involved, because we know that the more the family
is involved, the greater the outcomes are.”
According to a vox pop conducted by Arab News, four out of seven parents with special needs children said that their experience with virtual education was bad and their children’s performance has declined, while two said it was good and one said it was very good.
These children had a range of conditions, including learning difficulties, hearing impairment, intellectual disability and behavioral disorders.
However, five parents said that the experience made them more aware of their child’s abilities and condition, and three agreed that they became more involved in their child’s educational process.
The parents spoke about challenges, including the students’ struggle to understand and do their homework and deal with their devices, as well as their inability to concentrate on lessons.
Um Nurah Al-Mutiri, from Madinah, said her fifth-grade daughter with intellectual disability struggles to understand her teacher. “She is able to understand only when she can read her teacher’s gestures and her mouth movements,” she told Arab News.
Um Nurah does not oppose partial dependence on virtual learning, but she thinks it doesn’t work yet for students like her daughter.

HIGHLIGHTS

• According to a vox pop conducted by Arab News, four out of seven parents with special needs children said that their experience with virtual education was bad and their children’s performance has declined, while two said it was good and one said it was very good. However, five parents said that the experience made them more aware of their child’s abilities and condition, and three agreed that they became more involved in their child’s educational process.

• Special education teachers gave more positive feedback than parents about their experience with virtual education, with seven out of 15 teachers saying that their experience with students was good, two said it was very good, four said it was okay, while two said it was useless. The majority of those who said it was a good experience work with primary school students with hearing impairment and speech disabilities, while the two who said it was useless work with primary school students with intellectual disabilities.

Ahmad Al-Harbu from Qassim, who has a son with a similar condition, agreed that virtual education services are not ready yet for special needs students. He was one of the four parents who said that virtual education was completely ineffective for these students.
“Not all parents like to be involved much,” said Al-Nemary. “These children need attention and sometimes it can be more challenging for parents because they have other responsibilities.”
Al-Nemary believes that it is possible to provide a part of education or rehabilitation services virtually, but that this should not be the only medium of service provision.
“This is simply because these students, compared to typically developing children, need more attention than others, they need someone to talk to them and show them things, support them physically in doing certain activities and develop certain skills,” he said.
Special education teachers gave more positive feedback than parents about their experience with virtual education, with seven out of 15 teachers saying that their experience with students was good, two said it was very good, four said it was okay, while two said it was useless.

We should capitalize in these challenging times by keeping the family more involved, because we know that the more the family is involved, the greater the outcomes are.

Dr. Faisal Al-Nemary, chief operating officer at the Autism Center of Excellence

The majority of those who said it was a good experience work with primary school students with hearing impairment and speech disabilities, while the two who said it was useless work with primary school students with intellectual disabilities.
Munirah Al-Rumaih, a primary school teacher from Qassim, said the pros and cons from virtual education are equal. “Evaluating the results will take time,” she said. “My experience is fairly good so far.”
Al-Rumaih said her classroom was not fully equipped before the pandemic; therefore distant learning allowed her to utilize technology and more exciting content in her teaching, which she had not been able to do before.
“I have a shy student who wasn’t confident interacting in the classroom because of her speech impairment, but with distant learning she gained confidence and is participating in the virtual classroom a lot more,” she said.
She noted that differences between students at school were individual differences, while in distance learning, it is more about differences between families. “I hope teachers take that into account and consider each family’s circumstances.”
Some teachers spoke about the lack of interactive educational content available in Arabic for special needs students, low-income families’ need for support to get their children the right devices, the system’s lack of flexibility and the ministry’s unnecessary requirements.
Al-Nemary said there are two models of education in such challenging times, the completely virtual model and the hybrid approach. In the latter, children attend school once or twice a week, which he thought was more efficient.
In the former, he said, “parents must receive training on how to teach and train their kids in the home environment and develop their skills.”
“Some students might benefit from the virtual model, but I believe the majority of students with disabilities will benefit more from the hybrid model in these challenging times,” he said.
The hybrid model is applied at ACE , and Al-Nemary believes it has proved effective.
“Families come and attend one-hour sessions for 12 weeks and get the chance to learn how to teach their kids certain skills, such as communication, language, play and independence,” he said.
The feedback from families was positive. “We had some success stories from parents who really liked what we did, they saw that it was very enlightening for them compared to when their kids were attending the centre and they weren’t involved,” he said.
He noted that the hybrid model is flexible. “Based on each child’s characteristics and needs, we can determine who should get more out of which,” he said. “For example, some students might need 50 percent virtual and 50 percent face-to-face, other students might need 30 to 70 percent or vice versa.”
Al-Nemary anticipates an increase in educational and therapeutic services via the hybrid model, even after the pandemic is brought under control.
“It is a very effective model because it is cost-effective; we can reach those who live in areas that do not have access to specialists and experts,” he said.


Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’

Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’
Those who watched the Saudi Cup horse race coverage would have noticed that many racegoers, including foreigners living in the Kingdom, donned eye-catching pieces from the Kingdom’s regions. (Supplied)
Updated 28 February 2021

Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’

Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’
  • Eye-catching traditional pieces that women wear on key occasions highlight the Kingdom’s diverse heritage

MAKKAH: With Saudi Arabia’s diverse and colorful cultural traditions, fashion serves as a medium where foreigners and citizens can meet.
Fashion has always been an important part of how people define themselves and others, and Saudi Arabia’s traditional clothing is no different.
Those who watched the Saudi Cup horse race coverage would have noticed that many racegoers, including foreigners living in the Kingdom, donned eye-catching pieces from the Kingdom’s regions, while others made sure they showed off traditional fashion items.
For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an “American Saudi,” caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels.
Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land.
“The fashion scene was remarkable at the Saudi Cup. I am going to dub it the ‘Met Gala’ of Saudi Arabia in future. Saudi Arabia has such an old fashion heritage, so it was wonderful to be able to take a trip through history and to tell the world a story,” she said.

Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing.

Brandi Janow

“As a history lover, this is probably one of the best places that I can be to see so many remarkable sights with my own eyes,” she added.
Celebrating Saudi Arabia’s heritage, fashionable guests appeared in pieces that highlighted the Kingdom’s diverse heritage, including intricately embroidered daglahs for men and the heavily embellished zaboon worn by the women of Hijaz.
Janow calls Saudi Arabia her home and is “happy my journey brought me here.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an ‘American Saudi,’ caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels. 

• Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land. She calls Saudi Arabia her home and is ‘happy my journey brought me here.’

The private sector worker is also the program director for art, culture, media and entertainment at the American Chamber of Commerce in the Kingdom and also manages Smuug, a small business where she designs and sells products based on her illustrations.
“Before I came to Saudi Arabia I had never traveled outside North America, so I was quite excited to see a new place. I cannot say that I ever experienced culture shock, but I was in awe of how different the country was from my own. It is really beautiful how big the world is, and how different (and the same) we all are,” she said.
“Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing. I really think that humanity cannot prosper without change, growth and evolution.
“This is the natural way of life. As someone who works in the creative industry, it has been such a pleasure to watch the blossoming of talent,” said Janow.


Creative touch adds a little color to Jeddah’s corniche

Creative touch adds a little color to Jeddah’s corniche
The Colorful Corniche initiative will extend over the central island of the southern corniche for 4,500 meters and is due to be carried out in eight phases. (Social media)
Updated 28 February 2021

Creative touch adds a little color to Jeddah’s corniche

Creative touch adds a little color to Jeddah’s corniche
  • The event seeks to improve the appearance of main squares and meeting spots throughout the governorate in line with Vision 2030

JEDDAH: Citizens and creatives of Jeddah have come together for the Colorful Corniche initiative, painting roadways, walkways and squares to beautify the city.
The event, coordinated by the charity organization Oyoun Jeddah alongside Jeddah municipality, seeks to improve the appearance of main squares and meeting spots throughout the governorate in line with Vision 2030.
Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Jalawi, adviser to the governor of the Makkah region, took part in the launch, while also overseeing mock-up paint trials carried out earlier.
Jeddah’s mayor, Saleh Al-Turki, inaugurated the event on Friday, saying that the collaboration between Oyoun Jeddah and the municipality, as well as government and private entities, will encourage the growth of the urban environment.
The corniche makeover has been praised by passers-by.

This is such a great initiative because it will turn this beach area where people hang out, have a picnic or work out into something vibrant and full of life, while encouraging creativity and showing the country’s support for art.

Nourah Al-Nahi

“I was having my lunch break at the corniche yesterday and I wish this had been implemented then so I could have seen it,” said executive assistant Nourah Al-Nahi, 29.
Al-Nahi said she often stopped by the corniche to sit and reflect.
“This is such a great initiative because it will turn this beach area where people hang out, have a picnic or work out into something vibrant and full of life, while encouraging creativity and showing the country’s support for art,” she added.
University student Jana Abdullah, 19, said that the urban makeover will encourage her to take more walks at the corniche.

HIGHLIGHT

The aim is to highlight urban design, and integrate art and architecture in the urban landscape, raising cultural awareness by improving access to contemporary work in daily life.

“I don’t go to the corniche often because of the crowds, but this makes me want to go early on weekends for a quick jog or fast walk.”
Abdullah believes this initiative will add life to the austere asphalt and stone setting of the walkway, and will appeal to both adults and children.
“It also represents the country’s interest in art and its desire to revitalize it and encourage those pursuing it,” she added.
The Colorful Corniche initiative will extend over the central island of the southern corniche for 4,500 meters and is due to be carried out in eight phases.
The aim is to highlight urban design, and integrate art and architecture in the urban landscape, raising cultural awareness by improving access to contemporary work in daily life.


Who’s Who: May Mohammed Al-Rashed, College of Nursing dean at King Saud University

Who’s Who: May Mohammed Al-Rashed, College of Nursing dean at King Saud University
Updated 27 February 2021

Who’s Who: May Mohammed Al-Rashed, College of Nursing dean at King Saud University

Who’s Who: May Mohammed Al-Rashed, College of Nursing dean at King Saud University

The service of May Mohammed Al-Rashed, who has been dean of the College of Nursing at King Saud University (KSU) since 2018, was recently extended for two more years.

Al-Rashed received a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences from the College of Applied Medical Sciences (CAMS) in 1996 from KSU.

Six years later, she was awarded a master’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences, majoring in biochemistry, from the same college.

In 2014, she obtained her Ph.D. in molecular genetics from University College London (UCL), UK.

Al-Rashed has served as deputy of the clinical laboratory sciences department at CAMS. She has also been an assistant professor at the clinical laboratory sciences department in CAMS. From 2008 to 2009, she was the deputy of the dental health department at CAMS.

Prior to that, Al-Rashed worked as a lecturer in the clinical laboratory sciences department at CAMS, where she taught clinical biochemistry, the inborn error of metabolism, clinical enzymology, scientific writing and research methodology, from 2002 to 208.

For five years beginning in 1997, she served as a medical technologist in the clinical laboratory sciences department at CAMS; teaching practical laboratory skills and techniques, preparing reagents and design experiments for basic and advanced biochemistry courses.

Between 1996 and 1997, she served her internship at the Riyadh-based King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSH&RC).

She is an expert in molecular genetics techniques including DNA extraction, PCR, cloning, DNA sequencing, homozygosity mapping and next-generation sequencing.


KSU and Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property sign exchange deal

KSU and Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property sign exchange deal
Updated 27 February 2021

KSU and Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property sign exchange deal

KSU and Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property sign exchange deal

RIYADH: King Saud University (KSU) and the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) have signed a memorandum of cooperation and mutual understanding to support the academic alliance to carry out research and development in the fields of intellectual property, information management, and data exchange so that the research serves as the reference and legal umbrella for all future projects the two parties seek to implement, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Saturday.

The MoC was co-signed by KSU President Dr. Badran bin Abdulrahman Al-Omar and SAIP CEO Dr. Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Al-Suwailem.

The signing of the MoC comes based on the principle of joint and continuous cooperation between KSU and the government sector in the Kingdom. This move also reflects belief in the importance of intellectual property rights for enabling universities and scientific research institutions to protect and enforce these rights.

Under this MoC, the two parties will cooperate in studies and research specialized in intellectual property policies and systems in accordance with the best practices and regional and global methodologies, the scientific and practical applications of the results of these studies, exchanging advice and experiences in the field of emerging technologies and the applications of digital environment and artificial intelligence, training and developing human resources in this promising field, and contributing to the investment in and the employment of intellectual property rights to achieve economic and social development in the Kingdom.

In addition, the two parties, under the MoC, will prepare and design academic and training curricula in the fields of intellectual property in order to enrich the local and Arab knowledge content on intellectual property issues.

KSU is a local and regional pioneer in the field of intellectual property rights, in general, and patents, in particular, owing to the role of the Entrepreneurship Institute, which is supervised by Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Al-Harkan. KSU has over 1,450 patents and is among the best 100 universities in the world for the seventh year in a row, the last of which was 2020, in terms of the number of patents granted.

KSU is the largest depositary of patents – compared with the universities of the world – for the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, with over 450 patents. This highlights the accuracy of the scientific methodology adopted by the KSU administration to care for the fields of intellectual property for the university’s employees and develop it at the scientific and practical levels in accordance with the best international practices.


KSrelief provides medical aid to Yemenis

KSrelief provides medical aid to Yemenis
Saudi aid agency provides medical aid to Yemenis. (SPA)
Updated 28 February 2021

KSrelief provides medical aid to Yemenis

KSrelief provides medical aid to Yemenis
  • Undersecretary for administrative affairs of Marib governorate, praised the center’s team for alleviating the suffering of patients with special needs

MARIB: In the past eight months, Marib Prosthetic Limb Center, with the support of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), has provided 11,000 medical and treatment services to 5,000 people.
The fifth stage of the project ended on Saturday, with services including producing and fitting 314 artificial limbs, fixing and reproducing 100 orthotic limbs, and providing physiotherapy services for 2,832 people.
Abdullah Al-Bakri, undersecretary for administrative affairs of Marib governorate, praised the center’s team for alleviating the suffering of patients with special needs.
He also praised KSrelief’s support for the prosthetic center, which he said had an important role in rehabilitating people, and helping them to reintegrate in society and return to normal life.