The UAE-based Indian educator of Special Needs and Disability Ayukta Thakur has been selected by the Dubai ruler to lead a special sports programme that provides trainings and opportunities to athletes for their greater participation. Abu Dhabi is to host the Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regional games in March 2018. The event, which will take place ahead of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games (SOWG) in Abu Dhabi, is for competitors with special needs and disabilities. Thakur is a member of the board preparing for the SOWG. "As a board member of the Special Olympics UAE that will take place in March 2018, I am responsible for the development and delivery of the Athlete Leadership Program in Dubai," said Thakur, a specialist in the Special Needs field since 2012. "The Athlete Leadership Programme allows athletes to explore opportunities for greater participation in our movement within our society beyond sports training and competition," she said. It allows them to explore future opportunities as motivational speakers, coaches, team leaders, advocates among others, Thakur said. Raised in Japan, Thakur works closely with young adults with special needs and is a first Indian to be a part of the Special Olympics UAE Board. She is the co-founder of Integreat Center in Dubai which caters to the needs of young adults with special needs and utilises a holistic teaching approach to teach life skills development and vocational training. Thakur will work closely with Shaikha Mariam Bint Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan who serves as Honorary Chair of the newly restructured organization for the Special Olympics, and with Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of Youth serving as Chair of the board. The selection was made by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Thakur is pursuing Masters Degree in Mental Health from the University of Liverpool. Integreat Center was honored with an award "Icons of Learning" in Singapore on Thursday.
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