Under the guidance of HRH Princess Rima bint Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Ericka Koffroth Sabaan, a Mexican woman married to a Saudi national, approaches the Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women after discovering the absence of early intervention services in Riyadh for her daughter with Down syndrome.
Head of Al Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women, HRH Princess Sarah bint Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and Secretary General HRH Princess Moudi bint Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud step forward and sponsor the first preschool for children with Down syndrome on Al Nahda’s premises, starting with just 4 children.
Enrollment reaches the 40 student mark in just 2 short years and the program expands to provide services to include infants, toddlers, and elementary students.
The Al Nahda School for Down syndrome vacates its premises and moves to a larger location in the heart of the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh.
Patricia Oelwein, coordinator of the Down Syndrome Program at the University of Washington in Seattle, visits the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the first time and agrees to provide ongoing consultant services for the development of a specialized educational program providing early and continuous intervention for students with Down syndrome across six well-defined model programs.
Under the leadership of Fatima Malak, initial formal training begins with Mary Tatarka, a physical therapist and early intervention specialist, and Patricia Oelwein, a specialist in the education of children with Down syndrome.
The school expands to include intermediate classrooms, allowing enrollment to increase to 76 students. A speech and language therapist is added to the consultant team.
Basic curriculum materials in Arabic for elementary, intermediate, and secondary program are completed.
The school expands to include a third building serving boys of middle and secondary school age.
Vocational students receive community-based training, making the Al Nahda School for Down Syndrome the first in the Middle East to offer services to children with Down syndrome from birth to employment.
"Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome" is translated, becoming the first Arabic language text book addressing the education of children with Down syndrome.
The school is at full capacity with 171 students and a waiting list of over 805. Inundated by calls from parents with children on the waiting list and from parents outside of Riyadh with no access to educational services for their children, the issue of expansion becomes a top priority.
A team of consultants from McKinsey and Company conducts a pro-bono analysis to help Saut create an expansion plan that will allow them to reach 45% of individuals with Down syndrome in Saudi Arabia over the next 10 years.
Saut: The Voice of Down Syndrome Society is born in this year. An independent national society in its own right, it assumes the sponsorship of the schools from the Al Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women.
The World Health Organization, Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, awards Saut Education and Training Center the 2010 Down Syndrome Research and Education Award for their outstanding work in the field of Down syndrome in the Middle East.
Work commences on the first of the model schools outlined in the strategic plan with a student capacity of 300.
The number of Saut graduates from the vocational program with full-time employment in the community reaches the 12 person mark – an important milestone for the society.
HRH Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud becomes the Honorary President of Saut: The Voice of Down Syndrome Society and the schools' names are changed to the Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Schools for Down Syndrome
HRH Princess Rima bint Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is elected Chair of the Board of Saut: The Voice of Down Syndrome Society