Special Education
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Special Education

Special Education
The Abu Dhabi Education Council believes that all children can learn and that the responsibility for educating all students to their fullest potential rests with school staff working within a supportive educational environment.

Students identified as having special education needs shall: participate as appropriate in available educational opportunities; progress and achieve an age-appropriate accredited education; be prepared to make positive contributions to the local and wider community; develop and maintain physical, mental and emotional health and achieve economic well-being through access and participation in educational and vocational opportunities beyond formal schooling.

 Special Education Categories and Definitions

The term Special Education describes the programs and services designed and provided to meet special educational needs in order to ensure that all students can reach their full potential.

The term Special Educational Needs is used to describe any disability, disorder, difficulty, impairment, exceptionality or any other factor that may affect a student’s access to learning and educational performance.

“Difficulties “or “learning difficulties” refer to individual educational differences that can be addressed through effective classroom practice.

These differences may be behavioral, emotional or related to specific aspects of learning.

The following list describes the categories of disability recognized as requiring additional or different approaches within schools operated by the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

These categories are recognized, defined and included in a Ministry of Education document entitled “The Ministry of Education’s Guide: General Rules for the Provision of Special Education Programs and Services (2010).”

  • Intellectual Disability
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Emotional and Behavioral Disorder
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Speech and Language Disorder
  • Physical and Health related Disabilities
  • Visually Impairment
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Gifted and Talented Students

 Key Stakeholders

The purpose of the ADEC Special Education Services is to provide students with special and/or additional learning needs with access to an appropriate educational program and/or services in the schools of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Intensive collaboration among key stakeholders, including parents, is required to make this possible.

1. Abu Dhabi Education Council

The Abu Dhabi Education Council provides leadership and strategic direction in the development and delivery of appropriate educational and support programs and services that meet the needs of identified SEN students.

2. The Education Region

The Education Regions (Abu Dhabi, al Ain and Al Gharbyia) are responsible for ensuring that special education services and programs are delivered to appropriately identified students who require and can benefit from such support.

3. The School

All schools through the school principal in partnership with teachers, parents, school social worker and psychologist staff and Education Region staff are responsible for the identification and provision of educationally appropriate programs and services to students with special needs.

4. Students

All students have the opportunity to receive an appropriate education within a safe and friendly school environment. Students also have a responsibility to follow the school rules and policies, and to attend the Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings and Annual Review meetings at which time appropriate educational plans are set for them.

5. Parents and Guardians

Parents and Guardians of students with special needs are necessary and important members of the teams of professionals who meet to plan, implement and monitor student’s Individualized Education Programs.

 School Procedures

It is expected that the educational program that can best meet the special needs of most students with special educational can be provided in government schools which the student would normally attend.

However, in certain circumstances a more appropriate educational may need to be provided to a student in a location or setting other than the school that the student would normally attend. Such a decision would involve careful planning and involvement of parents, students and appropriate school staff.

The model of meeting the special education needs of students in schools follows a “staged” approach that responds to the specific requirements of individual students. The sequence of this approach includes:

Stage 1:

All schools are required to provide appropriate educational support to students in the general education classroom, which includes matching the curriculum to meet the different learning needs of each student. Learning Support Teams (defined as the team of professionals in each school including the principal, social worker, classroom teacher, special education teacher (where allocated) , school psychologist and other members when appropriate) may recommend different, specialized plans for some students.

Stage 2:

The school refers a student to the Learning Support Team for a special educational needs assessment and additional support whilst the student remains in the general education classroom. The student may access Resource Room services, where individual or small group support is provided for part of the day. All students will have Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) or Advanced Learning Plans (ALP’s).

Stage 3:

placement in a special class a small group of students with similar special educational needs. At this stage, all students have an (Individual Education Plan) IEP.

Stage 4:

Students with severe or complex special educational needs that cannot be met in government schools require placement in a special setting. At this stage, all students have an IEP.

These stages of of special education are based on the individual needs of the student and may change after careful planning.

The New School Model provides more detailed information about the procedures for the Learning Support Teams’ operational framework.

 Involving Parents

Schools are expected to involve the parents of students who have special educational needs. Parents have the most reliable and knowledgeable experience regarding their own children, and the information and perspective that they provide is essential in the educational planning process.

Efforts to ensure regular parental input in the IEP development process and in all subsequent meetings is expected form all schools. Schools are to provide the parents of students with special educational needs with regular reports (at least each semester), noting successful achievement of objectives as well as highlighting any educational concerns.

 Accommodations and Modifications

Students with special educational needs require easy access to the curriculum and to the school learning environment.

Students with special educational needs require easy access to the curriculum and to the school learning environment. To achieve this, some students need special accommodations or curriculum modification. These accommodations or changes will enable more students with special needs to meaningfully participate with their peers who do not have special needs.

Learning Support Teams carefully review individual student needs before determining the necessary accommodations or modifications which are then included in the IEP.

Accommodations may include changes such as in instructional strategies; a modified time and schedule for the student; alterations to the learning environment including the facility; different assessment processes or techniques.

Modifications are changes in what a student is expected to learn and how the student is taught. These changes are made to provide a student with the opportunity to participate meaningfully and productively along with other students in classroom and school learning experiences.

 Developing an Individual Education Plan (IEP)

The IEP must be based on the student’s strengths.

The goal of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is to develop a plan for educating the student that will result in the inclusion of the student in all school activities, as appropriate.

The IEP is individualized in terms of the student’s needs (both short – term and long – term) and his/her current achievements and future aspirations. The IEP must be based on the student’s strengths.
In developing an IEP to support a student, the school’s Learning Support Team, working with Regional Special Education staff, usually follow the following sequence:

  • Develop and describe a clear understanding of the student and the student’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Set instructional goals
  • Develop an educational plan
  • Implement the plan
  • Monitor and evaluate the plan

 Mainstreaming for Students with Special Needs

Students with special needs are entitled to enroll in any school, without exception.

However, such students may need to be supported by additional procedures which result in the most appropriate placement All students with known special needs must be registered with the Regional Special Education Service.

When a student has significant special educational needs, the school will provide advice and assistance to ensure that the following process is followed to ensure proper assessment of the student’s needs, leading to the most suitable support.

When admission requests fall outside the following timelines, schools should seek advice from their Regional Special Education office.
  • Parent contacts the Regional Special Education office to request school placement no later than February 1st of the admission year.
  • Parent completes a referral interview with the Regional Special Education Supervisor.
  • The Special Education Supervisor arranges for a multidisciplinary evaluation of the student. The Special Education Supervisor locates all student records from prior schools or centers.
  • Student Evaluations occur between February 1st to March 10th for admissions in September.
  • The Special Education Supervisor convenes a meeting that includes parents no later than March 31st to decide on eligibility and placement; to write the IEP; and to identify the appropriate school(s) for placement.
  • The Learning Support Team assists the parent in completing the school registration process as required.
  • The student is admitted to the identified school in September of the new school year.

Before referral to the Regional Special Education Service for assessment, parents must give written consent for the evaluation. For more information, kindly refer to the appropriate Education Region.

 Gifted and Talented Students

Students who have been defined as being gifted and/or talented are students whose abilities and qualities result in their exceptional performance. The educational needs of such students require specific consideration within mainstream educational programs as their achievements or perceived potential often place them significantly ahead of the majority of their peers in one or more of the following areas:

  • Intellectual ability
  • Subject-specific aptitude (e.g in science or mathematics)
  • Social maturity and leadership
  • Mechanical/technical/technological ingenuity
  • Visual and performing arts (e.g. art, theatre, recitation)
  • Psychomotor ability (e.g. dance or sports)

Therefore, it is important that an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) be developed for such students to meet individual learning needs. If a school-based instructional program is determined to be insufficient to meet the student’s needs, a referral will be made to the Regional Special Education team for further study and planning.

 Developing an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP)

An Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) will determine how the special needs of gifted and talented students, capable of high performance in one or more areas, will be met. The process for development of an ALP is as follows:

The stages of an Advanced Learning Plan:

  • An initial appraisal of the student’s learning and support requirements is made by school staff in collaboration with the Learning Support Team. Initial support programs are developed and provided to the classroom teacher(s) for implementation and trial for a period of no less than 3 months
  • If it is determined that the school-based intervention is found to be insufficient to meet the learning needs of the individual student, a referral is made to the Regional Special Needs Team
  • A member of the Special Needs Team conducts an assessment and, on that basis, either advises the school further as to how to provide a suitable curriculum for the student or, where necessary, initiates the establishment of an Advanced Learning Plan.
  • Should an ALP be appropriate, it is the school’s responsibility to set up a meeting which the parent, a Special Needs team member, a teacher and a Learning Support Team representative attend to determine what will be provided through the ALP
  • The ALP is monitored and reviewed at least annually (at the end of trimester 3 or at the beginning of trimester 1) to determine if the plan is meeting the learning needs of the student

 Registration and Admissions

Enrolment Conditions

The information that follows is general. It applies whatever level of education you are entering, from kindergarten to adult.

There are of course additional conditions, specific to each age group (Kindergarten, Cycle One, Cycle Two, Cycle Three, Adult Education and Special Education). For these, please see the relevant pages.

Registration Dates

As stated in the registration announcement.

Admission categories:

  • Emirati Students holding a family book.
  • Children of Emirati mothers who hold a family book.

Admission Age:

As per the student’s age at 1st October of the admission year:

Public Schools Admission Categories for Cycle One and Documents required for Enrolment

1. Documents required per student category:

Category Required Documents
Emirati nationals • Copy of the family book featuring student details.
Children of Emirati mothers • Copy of the Emirati mother’s family book.
Children of UAE passport holders • Copy of a valid UAE passport.
GCC Nationals • Copy of the student’s and parent’s valid passport.
Children of holders of decrees issued by the President or Vice President of UAE • A recent “To Whom It May Concern” certificate issued by the Department of Naturalization and Residency, certifying that the expatriate is included under the decree, and showing the decree number, date and the involved person’s serial number.
• A valid passport issued by the expatriate’s home country. Only children to decree holders are admitted, and this category does not extend to grandchildren or to children whose mother is the name on which the decree is issued.
Children of Diplomatic employees • Copy of the Diplomatic Card issued by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Orphan students sponsored by a UAE national (due to father’s death), provided that the sponsor is the breadwinner • Copy of a valid Residence Visa or Permit.
• Duly attested death certificate of the student’s father.
• Dependency certificate issued by state’s court.
• Copy of the Sponsor’s valid passport.
Children of expatriates working in the UAE as per the prescribed admission conditions • Student’s valid residence permit.
• Recent salary certificate issued by the parent’s employer.
• Rent contract endorsed by a UAE public authority.

2. Documents required for all student categories:

  • Copy of parent’s valid passport
  • Copy of student’s UAE ID
  • Copy of birth certificate. A birth estimation certificate issued by UAE accredited medical committees is also acceptable, provided the data it shows matches that in the family book or passport.
  • Student’s recent 4x6 photo.
  • Procedure for registration
  • Parent should bring originals of all requested registration documents in order to verify their authenticity.
  • Parent should fill the registration form accurately and carefully, then the school should verify the details, addresses and contact numbers.
  • Public Schools Admission Age for Cycle One (G1 to G5):
    • As per the student’s age at 1st October of the admission year:
Age (Calendar Year) Grade
To From
Years Months Years
10 6 5 G1 (for UAE nationals and those falling under the same category
8 6 5 G1 (for expats
9 6 6 G2
10 6 7 G3
12 6 8 G4
13 6 9 G5

Certificates Required for Entering students from G2 to G5:

Grade Required Certificate
G2 – G5 Passing Certificate with Transcript for last grade passed
  • All certificates must be attested by the respective competent authorities. For example Educational Offices, Adult Education or Private Division (with transcripts).
  • GCC nationals’ academic certificates issued in their respective countries must be attested by the Ministry of Education or educational zones in the issuing country.
  • Certificates issued outside the UAE will be attested by the Ministry of Education, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UAE Embassy in the issuing country.
  • Academic certificates issued by GCC embassies’ schools abroad will be attested by the respective GCC embassy and UAE embassy in the country where the certificate is issued.

Expat Students’ Public School Admission Conditions and Regulations:

Distinguished expat students can enroll at public schools for Cycle One on the following basis:

  • Terms and Regulations for admitting expat students inside the city of Abu Dhabi:
    1. The total number of enrolled students should not exceed 20% of the total number of students either in the school, or in any class, taking into account:
      • class capacity must not exceed the fixed class size
      • additional classes cannot be created to enable their admission (as this affects the school’s teacher and textbook requirements).
    2. G1 enrolling students are required to pass:
      • an interview conducted by the school’s competent Technical Committee
      • an admission test with a minimum score average of 90% in Arabic, English and Mathematics.
    3. G2-G5 enrolling students are required to:
      • pass the interview
      • have already passed the former grade with a minimum average of 85% in each of Arabic, English and Mathematics, and a minimum overall GPA of 90%.
    4. The tuition fees for expat students admitted in public schools is AED 6000 per school year (set by the applicable decrees and regulations).
  • Terms and Regulations for admitting expat students outside the city of Abu Dhabi, or who live 35km away from the nearest private school:
    1. The expat student ceiling of 20% can be waived, so long as:
      • the number of accepted students doesn’t exceed the class capacity.
      • additional classes are not created to enable their admission (as this affects the school’s teacher and textbook requirements).
    2. Exception to the distinguished students’ condition is given to children of expats working in governmental or private institutions, and whose residence and work location is more than 35km away from the nearest private school offering the appropriate level of education.
    3. Expat students whose parents are employed by governmental institutions in the city and who live in an area that is 35km or more away from the nearest private school can be accepted and admitted, as long as they have an academically excellent record.
    4. Schools should abstain from/consider not allowing the transfer of a student to another school in areas that are 35km or more away, unless the admission requirements and conditions are met (academic excellence and seat availability).
    5. In all cases, the tuition fees for expat students admitted in public schools is AED 6000 per school year (set by the applicable decrees and regulations).