DUBAI // A new charity programme is aiming to improve life for the thousands of children in the country thought to have undiagnosed developmental disorders.
The Al Jalila Foundation's Ta'alouf (Harmony) programme hopes to raise Dh100 million in its first year to combat low detection rates by improving screening initiatives and providing scholarships to nurture specialists.
A portion of the funds will also go towards research grants to explore the causes of such disorders and discover potential treatments.
The foundation believes a lack of public awareness about such disorders means thousands of cases go undetected and therefore untreated. Spotting disorders early means children can get appropriate help, enabling them to lead more fulfilling lives.
The programme also aims to address challenges faced by children in whom the illness has already been diagnosed, not only by providing medical support, but also by addressing social hurdles to their development and well-being.
"Developmental disorders should not only be approached from a medical perspective," said Raja Easa Al Gurg, chairperson of the board of directors of Al Jalila Foundation. "There are also academic challenges in integrating students with special needs into the mainstream education system, as well as potential economic benefits if students with special needs are empowered to contribute to national prosperity.
"These complexities have driven us to bring together strategic partners with medical, academic, scientific and community outreach expertise, to alleviate the imbalances faced by children with developmental disorders."
The foundation said that even the most conservative estimates put the prevalence rate of development disorders at 1 in 1,000 children, which suggested there were more than 8,200 cases in the UAE.
Boys are thought to be significantly more likely to have a developmental disorder than girls.
Partners for the Ta'alouf initiative include the Ministry of Education, Knowledge & Human Development Authority, Community Development Authority, Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Healthcare City.
The Al Jalila Foundation was launched in April this year by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who named the foundation after his youngest daughter. It was established with three fundamental pillars in mind - health care, medical education and research.
The programme has the backing of the Ministry of Education and Knowledge and Human Development Authority, which are working to provide the best education possible for people with special needs, and to involve parents in the schooling process to a greater extent.
The programme is aiming to get as many members of the public as involved as possible with fund-raising efforts.
"We are not worried, the UAE is a very generous society," said Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, the foundation's chief executive. "But it's a charitable foundation, so you'll see our boxes in petrol stations and malls. We will welcome any dirham from anybody."
The programme will focus on a particular disorder every two years.
"People who donate want to see an impact," said Dr Al Olama.
Prospective donors and partners should contact the foundation on firstname.lastname@example.org or 800 ALJALILA.