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ASPIRE transitioning programme assists differently-abled students
By Jamil Khan February 22, 2015
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DUBAI: A group of professionals from Stepping Stones have launched the ASPIRE Transitioning Programme to help to address a number of issues faced by differently-abled students'.

In a recent email interview with The Gulf Today, Maria Quirke, the director of occupational therapy and vocational programme services at Stepping Stone, shed light on various aspects of the organisation and its services.

Stepping Stones’ mission is for the UAE to have an inclusive society for all Individuals with Disabilities (IWD) through both increasing awareness and through providing opportunities for IWD to become integrated within the community.

“Such awareness and opportunities also extend to those IWD who are transitioning into adult life in order to have meaningful employment opportunities to build upon their strengths, potential and gear them towards the maximisation of their independence. Stepping Stones is very open to collaborating with any governmental organisations that are willing to partner with them to achieve the goal of an inclusive society for IWD,” she said.

Currently, Stepping Stones provides individual and group treatment and educational support services for children. These services are provided within the Occupational Therapy Department, Speech Therapy Department, and Behaviour Analysis Department, the Special Education and Inclusion Department. Services include comprehensive and educational assessments for individuals with disabilities specialising in Autism Spectrum Disorders. They also cater to individuals with a variety of other disabilities.

In response to a question, she said that “within Greenwood International School, Stepping Stones has an inclusion programme for children aged 4 to 7 and are housed in this mainstream school. These children attend mainstream classes throughout the day with dedicated learning support. In addition, they attend the Stepping Stones’ special needs classroom within the school. The Director of Special Education and Inclusion, Hiba Bahsoun, proudly leads this programme.”

These children progress through the inclusion programme with the aim of being accepted into a mainstream school the following year.

Maria Quirke mentioned that the ASPIRE Transitioning Programme stands for Achieving Strengths, Potential, Independence and Readiness for Employment.

“This service houses a dedicated full-time programme, in addition to individual sessions for its students. Anna White, who leads the Aspire transitioning programme, has recently joined Stepping Stones from a ‘Person in Charge’ role of a Centre for Independent Living in Ireland,” she added.

The founder of the Aspire programme, Quirke possesses a Masters in Science in Occupational Therapy along with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Masters in Business, from Smurfit Business School, in Dublin. Her previous business experience in Dublin combined with her Occupational Therapy experience in the UAE has proved beneficial for her contribution to the transformation and expansion of Aspire.

As part of Aspire, there is meaningful job placement assistance for the programme’s students. Aspire’s network of business collaborations includes Hilton Hotels and Resorts Dubai and Jumeirah College. These placements provide a fantastic opportunity for students to transfer learned skills, such as daily living, self-determination and interpersonal skills into the working environment.

This service provides students with the necessary Stepping Stones pathway towards both employment and transition into future careers. DP World has recently partnered with the Aspire transitioning programme, having been referred to Stepping Stones by the Community Development Authority.

Robin Windley –SVP Human Capital, approached Stepping Stones for their expertise and guidance in DP World’s mission to develop a structure within their organisation to provide employment opportunities for IWD. DP World’s ethos of “Making a Difference Together” perfectly complements the philosophy of Aspire. Stepping Stones is looking to connect with more organisations within Dubai to add to its network that they have already partnered with in order to provide job placements for their Aspire clients.
 

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