Brent Elder

Meeting with the Special Assistant to the Crown Prince

Last Wednesday, July 11, Dr. Bradshaw and I met with the Special Assistant to the Crown Prince, Will Griffiths, to plan supports for his four-year-old son Ben – who has Down syndrome – and discuss special needs provisions within Bahrain’s education system.

Ben riding in Bahrain
Brent Elder

Throughout our discussion, Mr. Griffiths elaborated on his personal experience of attempting to enroll Ben in certain Bahrain private schools. Ben was denied admission to the school where Will’s other children attended after the school’s officials conducted an observation of Ben in his nursery school. Will and his wife then attempted to enroll Ben in another school and were similarly shut down. Finally, Ben was admitted to a school that was willing and able to meet his needs. Will and I outlined ways we could better support Ben so he could continue to receive his education in a typical school that meets his parents’ standards. I was unable to meet with Will’s entire family, as they were on summer holiday in the United Kingdom. Will’s wife is a speech and language pathologist and has been very influential in setting up the best practices for Ben in his current school. Ben receives support from a highly skilled instructional assistant, and has a topnotch speech therapist. For the time being, Ben is fully included in classroom activities and loves school.

But Bahrain’s “selective” educational system presents a real problem for families who have children with special needs. If Ben is not welcomed back to his current school – and no other suitable replacement is found – Will’s wife and three children will have to move back to the UK. Will would be unable to accompany his family, as he has professional obligations in Bahrain. This is precisely why Dr. Bradshaw and I wrote up a grant that specifically outlines ways in which we can improve both the current general and special education practices in Bahrain. The objective of the grant is to help keep families like the Griffiths from having to face these potential hurdles simply because most schools in Bahrain refuse to take on the responsibility of educating all children.

Weekend in Dubai

I took this past weekend off to check out Dubai. Dubai definitely has something for everyone: a seven star resort, first class shopping, clubbing, and a desert safari.

Shortly after arriving, I met up with an American graduate student, Jereme, who was working in Dubai and studying landscape architecture and urban planning. He invited me to join him and his friend, Francesca, that evening. Francesca’s boyfriend did some album work for the Welsh DJ, Sasha (of Sasha and Digweed fame), and was serendipitously playing in a Dubai club that night. We were granted access with her VIP passes and received a first-hand look at the Dubai party scene. The club was filled with all the beautiful people of Dubai. The scene was very L.A. It seemed the only thing missing was Paris Hilton. Oh wait, she is still in jail right? Let’s hope so. We danced and enjoyed overpriced beers and called it a night/morning.

The next day I was off for a Bedouin desert safari, complete with an air conditioned SUV designed to plow over the dunes of the United Arab Emirates. Regrettably, I found it difficult to catch a decent photo with the plethora of litter everywhere. After the off-road adventure, we smoked hookahs, rode camels, enjoyed amazing food, and watched a belly dancer for entertainment’s sake. Following a long day in the desert, I was ready to hit the sack.

Dubai was ostentatious, but friendly. I saw the Burj al Arab (the seven start hotel), but passed on the view of the Palm Islands, as I did not feel the view was worth the 80 U.S. dollar entrance fee. I checked out a cool water park, took in some amazing architecture, and witnessed the wild Dubai nightlife. My last day there was spent in the gold, textile, and spice souqs for a bit of souvenir shopping.


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