Today’s post is the second in the series of International Speech Pathologists. I’m pleased to introduce you to Aalia Thobani one of my friends from graduate school at Northwestern. In addition to being an incredible speech-language pathologist, she always has a smile on her face. Aalia is one of the happiest people I know. I’m so excited to learn more about her life in Dubai!
1) Tell the readers a little about yourself
I graduated from Northwestern University with a dual Masters in Speech-Language Pathology and Learning Disabilities. After working in Skokie, Illinois for 2.5 years in a clinic focusing primarily on children on the Autism Spectrum, I moved back to Dubai, where my family lives. I started my own practice within a medical practice for 4 years, where I was exposed to many different diagnoses and age-groups. I have recently joined The Developing Child Centre (TDCC), a non-for-profit organization, as Director of Therapies.
2) How did you find work in Dubai? Is there a need for speech paths in the UAE?
There is a great demand for specialized services in Dubai. No only does Dubai service children locally, but from all other Emirates, other Middle-Eastern countries, and Africa as well. Dubai has become a hub for medicine and specialized services in the region.
In terms of finding work, I had initially sent my resume to several clinics. And in my most recent job, I was recruited. The best way to find a job would be to contact the therapy clinics directly. Our clinic TDCC, is always looking for bright new talent and resumes can be sent directly to: donna(AT)tdcc(DOT)ae.
3) What is Dubai like as a place to live?
Dubai has been very good to me. I love it! It’s a very multi-cultural place where everyone you meet has an interesting story and background. It has about an 85 % expatriate population from many countries around the world. It is a place that is constantly seeking to push boundaries and to do things other cities/countries don’t even dream about. I love the vision and the vibe!
It is very hot for about 6 months of the year and so you have to be aware of that. It is also an expensive place to live so before moving here, one would have to do one’s research, plan, and budget well.
4) Are you hospital-based?
I work in a non-for-profit centre that was set up by 2 moms. It is holistic approach to working with all children. Our services include: Speech-Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Psychology, Learning Support, and an Early Intervention Nursery.
The Developing Child Centre offers a fully comprehensive assessment and early intervention service for children requiring extra support. Our mission is to work with children’s individual needs and support families in overcoming challenges to see children reach their potential and confidently develop and pursue their ambitions. Our vision is to be a centre of excellence where children that need extra support and their families can access in-depth assessment, therapy and advice. Working in partnership with education and health professionals, including consultants, Doctors and Psychologists, The Developing Child Centre provides an integrated service for all children up to the age of 18 years. It can be difficult caring for a child with additional needs. The Developing Child Centre will be dedicated to helping these children and families identify and overcome their challenges in order to reach their goals, achieve their full potential and lead happy and successful lives.
5) What kind of qualifications do people need to work in Dubai? Are there programs there or are most of your coworkers trained outside of the country?
There are no Speech-Language University programs in Dubai at the moment. Everyone I hire comes from abroad. A Masters degree needs to include at least 1 year of experience abroad and a Bachelors degree needs to include at least 2 years of experience abroad before applying for the Dubai Health Authority license. The license is a necessity in order to work here. You can find more information at: www.dha.gov.ae. After completing the application (which includes degree attestation), then a test date is set. The test is an oral test and takes place in Dubai itself. If anyone is at that stage of their application, they can contact me, and I’m more than happy to help provide information on the kinds of questions to prepare for.
6) What’s your favorite thing about your work?
I love the vision of the centre – it seeks nothing short of excellence. Having the perspective and guidance of 2 mothers who have had children who require services, really positions us uniquely because their view is vital in achieving the goals for the centre and to meeting the expectation of other parents in the same position.
I love how collaborative it is. We work as a team, discuss all our clients, and ensure the case management all of our cases so that parents feel supported and guided from Day 1.
7) What’s your biggest challenge at work?
Since we don’t source our talent from Dubai, I would say finding the right talent can sometimes be challenging. Interviews and decisions usually have to happen via skype.
8) Is the culture supportive of speech therapists and special education? What’s the society like? Is it open to all people?
It is helpful that Dubai has a large percentage of expatriates – people who come from other countries and who are aware of the areas of service that we provide and who seek the highest standard of these services in Dubai.
Awareness is definitely increasing considerably but we still have a long way to go for the purposes of Early Intervention and support for our children in the schools. It is also important to note that unlike western countries, most schools are private schools, so even for the government to set standards of conduct when it comes to our children who require services, can be challenging. Although this is starting to change.
9) Do you envision yourself continuing your practice in Dubai? Will you return to the US at some point in the future?
I am very happy working in Dubai and so don’t plan to move anywhere anytime soon!