Hear it straight from the director of Vocational Program at Stepping Stones Center


Anna White

Director of the A.S.P.I.R.E Vocational Program,

Stepping Stones Center

The A.S.P.I.R.E Vocational & Transitioning Program is a one of its kind, transitioning service for teenagers and young adults with disabilities, currently housed in the Stepping Stones office in Dubai Healthcare City. The curriculum is centered around providing life skills to individuals with disabilities, keeping in mind their individual needs, abilities and interests.

In this article, Anna White, Occupational Therapist and Director of the A.S.P.I.R.E Vocational Program at Stepping Stones Center, shares her valuable insights on Vocational Program at Stepping Stones and discusses opportunities for young adults with disabilities.

Dubai offers various services for teenagers and young adults with disabilities but...

Unfortunately these services are not enough to meet the demand of individuals requiring these services. There is a huge emphasis on early intervention here in Dubai and I feel that services available for teenagers and adults are only emerging. Most centers here in Dubai only provide for individuals under 18 as, once they reach adulthood, they are no longer eligible for such services. These individuals must be transitioned into further services/pathways such as further education, intervention, life-skill development or employment. However, fortunately, there are some centers that do offer such programs for these older age groups, within the region.

There is potential for Employment in Dubai

Developing new skills or upgrading existing ones is the key to unlocking the employment opportunities for these individuals. Exploring interests and different career choices is of importance. Hence, employment skills should be a major focus throughout the year for such individuals.

For example, this can be done through setting up work placements in different settings so that such students may practice their gained skills in a more formalized environment, so as to gain practical knowledge of the work environment. Such skills that can be targeted may include resume writing, interviewing, and finding and keeping a job. They should also receive on-site training and supervision from a job coach.

Society needs to move away from the ‘medical model’

Being Irish, I reached out the Irish community here in Dubai and I was amazed at the response. I found it easy to build an established working relationship with a few reputable companies. These companies are transitioning beyond fulfilling their CSR responsibilities which is associated with sympathy/charity and looking at the benefits of having diverse teams within the workplace as diverse teams have proven to be more creative, motivated and more successful at problem solving. Society needs to move away from the ‘medical model’ that disability is viewed as a health problem to a social model that views the individual from a holistic point of view.

A.S.P.I.R.E program at Stepping Stones Center

The foundations of the program falling under the umbrella of Occupational Therapy. The main focus of the program lies in promoting students’ life skills and independence, which range from 12-25 years of age. The program caters to two levels of students (vocational and pre-vocational), based on their needs and abilities.

The Future and a Little Advice

Don’t give up! Dubai is ever-evolving and the services and opportunities available here are endless. However, we need these individuals to drive this forward. People with disabilities themselves are incredible self-advocates. They can demonstrate how lack of accessibility/opportunity affects them, and speak eloquently about their experiences. Both individuals with disabilities and those working beside them must truly believe in making their visions reality. Finding their own success will bring friendship, growth, power and recognition.

Passion, patience and dedication comes easily when you love what you do.

For further information, please contact Stepping Stones Center at Dubai@steppingstonesca.com or call 04-3635433.

#occupationaltherapy #Vocationalprogram #UAEAutism #AutismSpectrumDisorder #ASDBehavior #ASDParents #Developmentaldelay #AutismResearch

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