My name is Ali. I was born in 1987 and I come from Taif City, Saudi Arabia. I am a responsible and friendly man with a strong passion to pursue a career in special education. I believe that to become an excellent teacher, one must develop the desire to assist students. As such, I am well endowed with this skill of handling children in the learning process.
Why Special Education?
I developed interest in special education as a child since my cousin, Fares had autism. So many attempts to treat him and medically diagnose the situations failed and the doctor, who was not aware of the situation at the time, assumed that my cousin was mentally challenged. At the time, autism in Saudi Arabia was not a common occurrence and therefore was an unknown condition.
My cousin, Fares was often lonely and his parents went through a lot of suffering trying to diagnose his situation. When fellow children beat him up, he would come crying to me and ask for help, which led me to consider his phenomenon. I established that there are hundreds of thousands of other children in Saudi Arabia who suffer from autism and who lack manpower resources and educational programs. This sparked my interest to pursue a career in special education so as to address the issue of autism and help the likes of Fares.
My interest in special education also sparked while volunteering in a summer play scheme run by a local charity for children aged 2-8 in the summer holidays of 2004. I found it extremely rewarding to see the look of satisfaction on a child?s face as they completed a piece of artwork, or took part in a group activity knowing that I helped give the children the confidence and ability to do so. Working closely with both the children and their parents greatly improved my confidence and by the end of the play scheme I found myself singing along to the songs and joining in with the games with as much enthusiasm as the youngsters.
In 2006, I joined the University of Taif to pursue a degree in special education, autism spectrum disorder. The reason for my choice was to assist the people living with autism to live better lives through proper interaction with the society and as such ease their suffering. During my academic program, I participated in a number of voluntary and educational activities as a way of giving back to the society. On completion, I was awarded a Bachelor?s of Science degree and began working as a special teacher in an elementary school. My ambition to learn more about special education and gain more experience across different specters in the world was center stage and I later quit my highly paying job and enrolled in Najran University as a Teaching Assistant in special education department. During this period, I was awarded a scholarship in the United States to pursue a master degree so as to be well equipped with more knowledge on autism and assist the people in my country.
My first encounters in the U.S. were surprising. On one occasion, my friends and I were gathered in front of Starbucks at Celebration, Orlando FL and we were conversing and laughing loudly as people of common origins. An elderly man came out of Starbucks and enquired about out our backgrounds, from which we gladly told him that we were from Saudi Arabia. He described how Arabs were horrible people and since we had just arrived and were poor in spoken English, we ignored his sentiments and thanked him. English, we said thank you. We thought that this man had just complimented our roots. When we narrated the incident to a Saudi friend who spoke English fluently, he laughed at us and we discovered that the elderly man was insulting our origin.
I questioned myself as to the reason behind the insult by the elderly man on the entire 250 million Arabs around the world. Was it due to the negative picture the American media kept emphasizing about Arabs? Were we really terrible? Did 9/11 have a different outlook on Arabs or did Americans have this negative idea about Arabs even before the terrorist attack?
After a long soliloquy, I realized several things. First was that, not all Americans were hostile towards Arabs and my view that Americans had negative picture about Arabs were biased. In fact, different Americans had the varied views about Arabs especially those that loved and had visited Saudi Arabia. In addition, the man might have intended to present his views about how terrible it was that we were making noise and talking loudly in a quiet place. I realized that it was improper to jump into conclusions and generalize how Americans viewed Arabs just because it was commonly held back home that Americans disliked our culture and religion. I should not generalize that all Americans dislike our culture because one actual comment from one person in a situation in which we behaved against the Americans norms.
In December 2014, I graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a Master of Arts in ASD. It was an amazing program which gave me the opportunity to get more acquainted with ASD updates as well as appreciate the variations between the two educational systems. I went back to working in University of Najran, Saudi Arabia as a lecturer in special education department where I taught the three courses for students of special education in BA level. I felt great teaching students and equipping them with what I had gained in the United States. This was highly rewarding and gave me a sense of responsibility and pride to be of assistance to my country.
I enrolled for a PHD program in the USA so as to advance my knowledge and scope across the globe. This is geared at increasing my satisfaction in the role I play towards assisting the people with autism and the challenged in the society. Despite the understanding that teaching is tasking and tedious, I am determined to achieve my goal of becoming a lecturer in special education which would bring me much pleasure.
My academic and professional journey has seen my live in seven different cities in Saudi Arabia and the USA, between 2009 and 2016 and visited eight states across East Asia, Europe and North Africa. Due to my inability to stay in a particular place, my friends believe that I am unlucky. In my opinion however, this has taught me several experiences, expanded my cognition and helped me to appreciate variant cultures and people. In my mind, I conjure up a state where appropriate human life will be accorded in most countries through laws, cultures and regulations.
lived experiences effect you as a researcher
I had two different experience in field of special education, first was working as teacher with student with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and always I were thinking to find the most appropriate tools to develop children’s language and communication skills, social skills, cognitive skills and organizational skills. second, worked as Teaching Assistant that I just love the research side of it, will takes me to a step further and direct my interest where I want it to go. when I was working with student with ASD I had observed some student strong related with computer and Game Boy. I was worried about lack of use technology to teaching students with ASD and wanted to find out how to support my student with autism. the world today, use technology in many of science as medicine or engineering to improve the quality of life. but I think there is a slow strides in education to catch up with the rapid development in our world. this push me to ask a teacher who have experience more then me, Why we did not use technology to teach to suit the rapid development? How we can employ technology in education? What are the barriers that prevent this? But unfortunately I cannot find answers to my questions. after that I want to university to asked my a lot of question to Dr. Osama who working as Associate Professor- Autism spectrum disorder and he told me you have to research to find solution for your questions. then I quit from school to transfer in Najran University to complete my master degree and PhD to learn about research tools and methods to be one of this world and can make change based researches.