Muscat: A new centre that will offer comprehensive solutions for children with special needs is due to open next week in Al Khuwair.
The ‘Idrak Centre for Assessment and Rehabilitation of People with Special Needs and Disability’ is a joint investment and Corporate Social Responsibility project by Al Hosn Investment Company and the Senad group, experts in special education and care.
Accepting children from the ages of six months to 13 years, the centre will cater to cognitive, sensory, speech and communication disabilities in a comprehensive manner.
“We will be seeing children starting from six months old up till 12 or 13 years old. In the initial stages, the centre will have a team of 10, including educational psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, special education specialists and family officers,” said Nayef Bazzi, General Manager of the centre.
Although six-month-old babies are too young, their diagnosis will be based on the way they act or move.
“Our diagnosis for really small children will be based on information sharing, symptoms told by the parents, doctors, the way the child acts and giving parents advice and access to services that they may need. Sometimes, it’s just reassurance, reading and discussing clearly,” Nayef added.
According to the disability statistics of the Ministry of National economy, derived from 2010 census reports, Oman has 62,506 individuals suffering some form of disability, representing 3.2 per cent of the total Omani population. The disability among males and females is 53 per cent and 47 per cent, respectively.
According to Dr. Shariffa Al Said, an education expert who works in the Ministry of Education (MoE) and is involved with the centre, “The Ministry of Social Development wanted to establish a centre that takes care of special needs children across Oman.
“Ever since we approached them, they have been supporting us and will be playing a larger role, visiting private schools and telling them that this service is available here in Oman. We are going to be affiliated with the MoE and the MoSD.”
The team at the centre has been visiting many schools, hospitals, clinics and colleges in the country to spread word about the availability of such treatment and services.
“We have visited several community centres in Muscat, and received an excellent response. The teachers and managers of schools were eager about availing the very best services and everyone asked us how could we help and expand the services.
“Apart from word of mouth, the centre will also be using social media tools to spread the message. We will be using our website, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and a whole range of platforms for spreading awareness about our centre,” said Brian Jones, Chief Executive Officer of Senad, who is also an expert in special education services in the UK.
Although the cost that the centre can charge has been arrived at in agreement with the ministry and in line with professional pricing, the centre will not be turning away any children who need support and do not have the money.
“We have agreed with the ministry regarding the costs. However, if a child needs help and is not able to pay for treatment, we will have the ministries supporting us, so we won’t be turning anyone away. We are here to serve.”
Dr. Shariffa acknowledged that Oman indeed lacks qualified professionals in this field and said it does pose a challenge. “We would be a lot more advanced if we had more qualified Omanis for this job,”Dr. Shariffa pointed out.
Jones added that the centre is focused on bringing back Omani professionals and ensuring their skills are available once again to the community.
“If professional Omanis come back and build a future here with organizations like ours, working with ministries, it will really help.”
The centre is located in the Al Hosn Investment building in Al Khuwair near Al Zakher mall.