Leading UAE Institution Conducts Revolutionary Research into Learning Difficulties

Apr 25, 2010

Multi-Disciplinary Project Will Provide Vital Help for Families Living with Down's Syndrome

The British University in Dubai (BUiD), the regions first post-graduate research-based university, has re-affirmed its position as a centre of regional excellence in the field of special needs education with its research into the speech characteristics of people with Downs Syndrome, a learning disability which affects people across the region.

Experts at BUiDs Institutes of Education and Informatics are collating their extensive knowledge and experience, to study the language development of children and adults with Downs syndrome in Arabic-speaking countries.

Speech assessments are digitally recorded via specialist computer software and then analysed. Early results demonstrate similar trends in both the Arabic-speaking and Western worlds, yet the use of speech therapy in the West is significantly more advanced.

This ground-breaking research allows us to study sounds and wave patterns of speech, which we can match to international characteristics. In many cases the computer is then able to determine precisely what the individual is saying something humans find difficult, said Dr. Eman Gaad, senior lecturer, Institute of Education, BUiD.

As part of the research, BUiDs Institute of Education team also interviewed top officials, clinicians and teachers in the Emirates about the understanding of Downs Syndrome, and attitudes to teaching those with the condition.

Once the project is completed, the BUiD Institute of Informatics team aims to use the data, and appropriate technology, to make further advances in communication development which will benefit those with Downs Syndrome and other conditions associated with learning difficulties.

The use of computers in predicting and interpreting speech in children and adults with Downs Syndrome will benefit many Emirati families. It can help identify missing words and vocabulary, as well as grammatical substitutions, which commonly occur with the syndrome, said Dr. Habib Talhami, acting head, institute of informatics, British University in Dubai.

This research really shows the impact that BUiD is having not just in the UAE, but also the region as a whole. This is advanced multi-disciplinary work combining the knowledge and experience of academics who have worked throughout the world, said David Lock, BUiDs registrar and acting chief executive.