Her passion for music inspired Gabrielle Malzahn, Director of the House of Arts, to establish a music class that would serve the children with special needs in Al Ain.
“Music is such a wonderful tool to help the special children realise and enrich their lives. It would help them express themselves because, often, they do not have any language that can make them do it. Music, therefore, will be their channel. Whatever the outcome is in the end, it is the process that is important because it would give them a way to express, deal with frustrations, socialize and learn non-verbal communication. And you know, they are just human beings like everybody else and they should have chances to live their lives as well,” said Malzahn.
The Music Class for Children with Special Needs has just started its first term last September 8, but they would still be opening for more groups. “We want to have more children, but we will keep only four in a group.” Sessions can be on a Monday or a Thursday, at 3:00 to 3:45 p.m., and there will be a behavioral therapist and a music teacher present.
“The aim is to have the kids in tuned with the rhythm, with the feelings and with the emotions through music. Sometimes we cannot express ourselves with words, but we certainly can express ourselves with actions and, in particular, through music. Music is such a fabulous way to distress our minds and bodies, and kids, particularly kids with different needs, will benefit from it because they are always wired up and much more frustrated than we can think of because they too want to communicate with us. But it is very difficult for them to express what they want us to understand. So what we are doing here is give them a therapeutic session using music,” said Tatiana Margan, Behavioral Therapist of the House of Arts.
Margan’s theory on using music in teaching children with special needs is based from researches that conclude the many benefits music can give. Aside from being able to stimulate speech development, music can also aid in memory and learning by organizing information into smaller chunks, and create a meaningful environment for socialisation and leisure pursuits. Music can also improve functional communication, promote relaxation and auditory feedback, and process sensory stimulation as well.
“Passing around something that makes sounds already teaches them interaction, succession, and rhythm, among others. But of course, some might not benefit from this; it is very important to try and see. I have seen different countries that have given wonderful results when they have treated special children with music. Hopefully, we can teach them an instrument. I particularly know of somebody from my country who plays piano beautifully, but that is only what he can do.”
Recently, the UAE has created programs to assist these people. Last June, the first language speech centre in Abu Dhabi has opened. It teaches Arabic and English and is open for all those who need language and speech therapy regardless of age. The Health Authority -Abu Dhabi (HAAD) has also collaborated with the New England Centre for Children (NECC) to treat children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and support their families.
There are also schools – most of which are non-profit organizations – set up in some of the emirates. These are the Al Noor Centre for Children with Special Needs, which is managed by the Ministry of Social Affairs; the British Institute for Learning Development, which offers a neuro-developmental programme, sensory integration therapy, educational psychology, SAMONAS (spectrally activated music of optimal natural structure), reading development programme, play therapy, speech therapy and auditory processing; the Dubai Center for Special Needs;
Emirates English Speaking Centre; Emirates International Center; Future Centre for Special Needs; and the Special Needs Family Children Development Center.
Even the UAE Armed Forces lent a hand in motivating people with special needs. Last year, in an agreement with the ministry’s Centres for Rehabilitation of People with Special Needs, about 300 people were entrusted civilian jobs. "These people are a very important part of our society. We need to rehabilitate them so they can also play their role in social development... I hope this important agreement will lead to further developing the skills of these people and provide more job opportunities for them," Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior was noted saying.
Three legislations were also passed to protect these people: Federal Law No. 29 of 2006, which gives the disable person the right to lodge lawsuit at court if his/her right is abused whether at work site or public places; Federal Law No. 2 of 2004, which instituted the Zayed Supreme Establishment for Humanitarian Welfare, incorporating the Zayed Foundation for Charitable and Humanitarian Works, Social Welfare and Juveniles Authority, Zayed House for Comprehensive Care, Abu Dhabi Elderly Centre, Al Ain Handicapped Centre, Al Ain Handicapped Club and the Rehabilitation Centre for People With Special Needs; and another law that will require private sector companies with more than 100 employees to delegate 3% of jobs for the people with special needs.