Bedouin Community Gets Very First School for Autistic Children

The first-ever school for autistic children from Israel's Bedouin communities will open next month in the Hura local council. The school will serve all autistic students from all Bedouin communities in the country. Until now, autistic students from these communities attended special schools in Be'er Sheva or went without any treatment or education.

The program was initiated by the director of the Education Ministry's southern district, Amira Haim, and taken up enthusiastically by Mohamed al-Nabari, who heads the Hura local council.

"The is the first school of its kind in the Bedouin sector, and it will specialize in offering professional solutions to students aged 3 to 13," El Nabari said. "We'd already decided some years ago that every student in Hura would receive the education that suits his needs, and when Haim approached me I immediately agreed."

The ministry's southern district spent the summer recruiting specially trained staff for the school, including a principal and teachers with experience in special needs education, a paramedical team, Arabic-speaking clinical psychologists specializing in communication, art therapists and educational advisors. The school will have a NIS 2.5 million budget for its first year alone.

A new step in support

"The school represents a new step in a series of actions taken by the Education Ministry in recent years to expand the services available to special needs students in the Bedouin sector," said Haim. "These initiatives included opening special needs kindergartens and classes throughout the Bedouin population, including classes for children with cerebral palsy and classes for the hearing impaired held in mainstream schools."

"On top of that," she continued, "in the past three years three community support centers were opened. Each center offers all the necessary professional services for special needs education - including paramedical services, professional development, counseling and so on."

Sources in the ministry's southern district said schools for children with behavioral disabilities and other special needs schools are also planned in Abu Basma, Rahat and Tel Sheva.

Dahar Alasibi, the director of the new school in Hura, told Haaretz that the facility is meant to bring all autistic children from the Bedouin sector together.

"At the moment, the students are scattered across Jewish schools, as well as some in Bedouin special needs schools that don't specialize in autism," he said. "Our education team will specialize in treating students with autism. The school will primarily offer communicational support, along with educational and social support."