Sana Malak brings over 20 years of teaching, applied behavior analysis and special education expertise to Saut. Holding a Bachelors degree in Special Education from King Saud University (Riyadh), she began her career at the Al Nahda Schools for Down Syndrome. Under the tutelage of Down syndrome expert and consultant Pat Oelwein, she became well-versed in the teaching philosophy and methods that best support positive learning outcomes for children with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. From there, she transferred to the Al Amal Institute for the Deaf where she applied her existing knowledge, while also acquiring new skills necessary for serving students with hearing and speech difficulties. She started as a teacher, gradually rising through the ranks to become a supervisor responsible for a number of teachers and classrooms serving students with multiple disabilities. Sana’s commitment to professional development led her to enroll in several training courses and workshops, including those affiliated with the well-known Montessori and Makaton programs. This passion for learning and teaching eventually culminated in a Masters degree in Special Education from George Washington University (Washington DC) with a specialization in Early Intervention. While in the United States, she obtained valuable field experience by working within the public school system with a focus on teaching students with disabilities in inclusive school settings. Determined to use her credentials to benefit students in Saudi Arabia, she returned to her position at Al Amal Institute where she adapted many of her new learnings to local settings. In 2016, she joined the Saut team as Principal where she is responsible for running all administrative and educational aspects of the school. In addition to day-to-day operations, she focuses on teacher training, adherence to best practices across all aspects of the program, and remaining abreast of the latest research in the field in order to provide a world-class education to students with Down syndrome.
Manal Al Habdan
Public Relations and Communications
Manal Al Habdan began her career at what was then known as the Al-Nahda School for Down syndrome as a teacher after graduating from King Saud University in 1994 with a Bachelors degree in Special Education. She was then promoted to educational coordinator for the early intervention program spanning ages 0 to 5. With the establishment of Saut as an independent national society in 2010, Manal transitioned from the educational to the administrative department. In her current role, she is responsible for articulating Saut's vision and mission to potential donors and to the general public, managing its media exposure, and planning and implementing events and fundraisers.
Reem Hashem heads the Human Resources department where she is responsible for recruiting, staffing and retention of employees, compensation and benefits administration, and the development of processes and metrics that create an employee-centric culture emphasizing quality, productivity and performance. She is also responsible for employee safety, welfare, and wellness and provides assistance with performance measurement across departments. Reem brings over 20 years of experience to this role. She began her professional career with the Saudi Arabian embassy in Damascus where she worked in the consular section before moving on to manage the affairs of Saudi nationals residing in Syria. Upon moving back to Riyadh in 2002, she joined the Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women as an HR supervisor and then moved to Saut in 2010 to head the Human Resources department. Reem holds a Bachelors degree in Public Administration from King Saud University.
Patricia Oelwein, M.Ed., has been a consultant at the Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Schools for Down Syndrome (formerly Al Nahda Schools for Down Syndrome) since 1991. Her specialty in early intervention and education for children with Down syndrome began in 1972, when she became a preschool teacher and program developer in Down Syndrome Program’s demonstration classroom at the Center on Human Development and Disability, University of Washington. In 1975, the Down Syndrome Program received validation as a model for replication from National Diffusion Network, the first USA federally funded agency to identify and spread innovative, effective, educational practices to schools throughout the nation. Ms. Oelwein became the outreach trainer, providing training for teaching children with Down syndrome and other developmental delays throughout the United States and in fifteen other countries spanning six continents.
Patricia has published research articles, chapters in textbooks, and instructional materials. She edited Advances in Down Syndrome with Valentine Dmitriev, wrote Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome and Saut Assessment of Applied Academics and Functional Skills, and, with Leslie Broun, Literacy Skill Development for Students with Special Learning Needs.
Patricia C. Winders
Patricia Winders has been a consultant at the Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Schools for Down Syndrome (formerly Al-Nahda Schools for Down syndrome) since 2000. She received her B.S. in Physical Therapy from the University of Florida (USA) in 1975. Since 1981, she has specialized in providing physical therapy to children with Down Syndrome. She is author of Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, published by Woodbine House in August of 1997. She is a senior physical therapist and Down Syndrome Specialist at The Children’s Hospital (TCH) in Aurora, Colorado USA. She began in 2008 and was the first hire for the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome, whose goal is to create a medical and clinical care dream team dedicated to children with Down Syndrome. Prior to TCH, she worked for 19 years with children and adults at the Kennedy Krieger Institute Down Syndrome Clinic in Baltimore, Maryland USA. She also serves on the Clinical Advisory Board of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and on the Professional Advisory Committee of the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC). She is the recipient of the 2004 NDSC Meritorious Service Award.
Cynthia Branson, MA CCC-SLP specializes in Speech-Language Pathology and has been a consultant at the Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Schools for Down Syndrome (formerly Al-Nahda Schools for Down syndrome) since 1995. She has an extensive background in child language development and early childhood intervention derived from more than twenty years experience as lecturer at the University of Washington (Seattle WA USA) in the Speech and Hearing Sciences Department. She was program supervisor in pediatric speech-language pathology at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Health Center (Tacoma WA USA) as well. Her research and treatment interests are in the area of genetic disorders. She published The Student with a Genetic Disorder (with D. Plumridge, R. Bennett and N. Dinno) and worked on diagnostic teams evaluating children with Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome and Fragile X syndrome. She also has taught in the area of typical and atypical language development, early language intervention and development of social communication.
Susan Sandall, Ph.D. is Director of the Professional Development and Applied Research Units at the Norris and Dorothy Haring Center, University of Washington (UW), Seattle, Washington USA and has been a consultant at the Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Schools for Down Syndrome since 2010. She is also on the faculty in the Area of Special Education at UW. Her research interests include effective instructional strategies for young children with developmental disabilities; play, interaction, and social-communication of very young children with disabilities; and the changing roles of teachers and the implications for personnel development. She was a long-time board member at the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children. She co-authored DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education and Building Blocks for Teaching Preschoolers with Special Needs (with Ilene Schwartz). Susan began her association with the Norris and Dorothy Haring Center as a graduate student in the Experimental Education Unit. She has taught in the early intervention program, provided courses and training opportunities for teachers and student teachers, and conducted research in the Experimental Education Unit classrooms.
Marge R. Luthman
Marge Luthman began consulting at the Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Schools for Down Syndrome in 2015. Her specialty in occupational therapy began in 1986, when she became a staff occupational therapist at at the Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago Illinois. From there, she focused on pediatric services, providing diagnostics and treatment to children facing sensory and motor challenges. In addition to working directly with children and their families, she began teaching graduate students and occupational therapists through workshops and courses in various institutes and universities. She is currently the Occupational Therapist/Education Coordinator at The Children’s Therapy Center in Kent, Washington where she provides occupational therapy treatment to children of all ages with a variety of diagnoses.
Marge received her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy from Colorado State University in 2005 and is certified in Neurodevelopmental Treatment as well as the Administration of the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT). She has published research articles, chapters in textbooks, and developed a series of workshops on the theory and treatment of sensory integration orders and autism. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, the Washington Occupational Therapy Association and the Alaska Occupational Therapy Association.