Online school student receives outpouring of support for Special Olympics participation

ABU DHABI, 4th March, 2019 (WAM) — Maria Bytchkova’s face beams with pride whenever she talks about her son, Alexander.

The 14-year-old is an accomplished athlete who trains each day and is looking forward to representing his adopted home as part of the UAE team who will take part in the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

However, Maria explained that just four short years ago life was completely different for the autistic teenager.


Originally hailing from Russia, the family spent many years in the United Kingdom, until moving to Abu Dhabi in 2015.

Maria initially had difficulty finding a school in Abu Dhabi that could cater to Alexander’s needs. He struggled to adapt to a classroom environment, would feel lost in crowds of students and found it difficult to play sports.

Unable to find the right mainstream school for Alexander, Maria turned to iCademy Middle East, a specialist education provider that caters to students with learning disabilities.

“We really struggled to find a place to support Alexander’s needs and a mainstream education provider was not an option,” Maria said. “Enrolling him with iCademy has been a real turning point in his academic career.”

Recognising the challenges Maria was faced with and Alexander’s difficulties with a traditional classroom-based learning environment, iCademy developed and implemented a home-schooling solution that allows Alexander to receive an education from specially trained educators while also providing Maria with all the support she needs.

“I had no experience of home-schooling before coming to Abu Dhabi,” Maria confessed. “But it has been fantastic, and it really is a winning formula. It gives us the flexibility to work at Alexander’s own pace – if biology needs to take three hours then we will spend three hours on it.

“ICademy has been very supportive and so important to our success – I can’t stress that enough. Alexander has built his confidence, self-esteem and now believes he is capable of achieving his own success.”

Alexander, whose favourite subjects are history and science, loves to learn new things each day and is something of a “walking encyclopaedia”, Maria explained.

“He is always going above and beyond the curriculum and teaching me things I never knew. It sometimes takes Alexander longer to process certain bits of information so the flexibility that iCademy gives us is paramount to his success and development. He would be lost in a big class and really benefits from one-on-one teaching,” she added.

The flexibility of Alexander’s home-schooling routine and the American-based curriculum provided by iCademy allows the youngster time to play his beloved tennis each day.

“We are able to juggle academic development and training,” said Maria, who thanks GOALS UAE, an Abu Dhabi-based initiative that specialises in giving youngsters with intellectual disabilities the chance to play individual and group sports.

“Goals UAE helped him to find confidence, provided safe and supportive surroundings,” Maria said. “Alexander tried several sports at Goals UAE but has been playing tennis for three years now. He trains every weekday for an hour.”

Alexander is part of a four-person Goals UAE tennis team and training involves various drills to work on his technique, agility, stamina and ability to prepare him for matches.

His ability on the tennis court, his enthusiasm and passion to train with his two coaches caught the eye of officials at UAE Special Olympics who invited Alexander to be part of the national squad that will compete at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

Alexander is thrilled to be chosen as one of the non-Emirati athletes who will represent the UAE at next month’s global sporting and humanitarian event, Maria said.

“The World Games are all about having a good time,” she said. Alexander is happy to represent the UAE and it’s a way of giving back to the country that has given this family so much.

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