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The disruption of schedules is difficult for all students to handle, but for many students of determination, who rely on consistency, these can be especially hard times.

Sarah Qutob, 12, dreads online classes as she is not used to watching endless tutorials and submitting assignments within stipulated deadlines. Diagnosed with autism at the age of 15 months, Sarah attends grade 8 at the Al Mizher Academy for Girls in Dubai.

‘Sarah really misses her school as her teachers take special care to make her understand subjects,’ says her mother Dr Hibah Shatah, managing director of Child Early Intervention Medical Centre.

[Dr Hibah's persistence helped pave a new path for autism in the UAE]

With the direct interaction missing, Sarah is finding herself a bit burdened with all the homework and activities meted out. ‘She has a tutor to help her at home but she still feels overwhelmed,’ says Dr Hibah.

While her mother has explained the Covid-19 situation, which led to the closing of schools, Sarah still keeps asking when she can get back to school and see her friends. ‘Autistic children do not adapt quickly to change. Any disparity in their regular patterns can cause them great discomfort. One of the main peeves is the online PE classes. She has to submit her exercising videos online and it is tough getting her to do it,’ says Dr Hibah.

Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi, Mj Maria has three children with ASD in the house. Her elder daughter Sarah, 12, attends Richmindale School ME, her son Saud, 11, is on an Instant Reader Program and youngest daughter Shahana,10, attends SRK-TLP Homeschool ME.

But now with all the kids under one roof and different learning schedules and patterns, things are getting a bit nerve wrecking mainly for Maria. ‘I try to explain math to Shahana but since I have dyscalculia myself, both of us end up being burnt out,’ she says.

After their daily lessons, she just lets her children unwind for the rest of the day, without pushing them to do anything more.

‘As parents of special needs children, we have to be extremely patient and compassionate. It is not easy for any of us, so we can imagine what our special kids are going through,’ says Maria.