Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 12 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Dubai mum receives personal call from police to help organise time outside for daughter with Down syndrome

Stephanie Hamilton says Dubai Police told her to be descriptive in the details and use the 'emergency' category

Ruby Hamilton explores the outdoors near her home in Dubai. Courtesy Stephanie Hamilton
Ruby Hamilton explores the outdoors near her home in Dubai. Courtesy Stephanie Hamilton

A Dubai mother says her "heart is filled with love and kindness" after receiving a personal call from the police to help her organise some time outdoors for her disabled daughter.

And now, she wants to ensure other parents of children with disabilities are aware that the same option is available to them through Dubai's leave permit system.

The four minutes it took Ruby to do her bike ride today made all the difference in the world ... we had been given an hour permit, but she only wanted four minutes

Stephanie Hamilton

Stephanie Hamilton publicly shared her struggles in explaining Dubai's movement restrictions to her 14-year-old daughter Ruby, who has Down syndrome and autism, on Instagram on Thursday.

That post resounded with hundreds of people across the UAE, through comments and shares.

Ruby had been asking to go outside to ride her bike every day, Hamilton said.

The time spent indoors had a "massive impact" on her, as she couldn't understand why she wasn't allowed to complete her usual 500-metre loop around the block on her bike.

"Yes, we are dealing with a pandemic, but what about the repercussions of mental health for people with intellectual disabilities that don't have the means to articulate how they are feeling?" Hamilton wrote on Instagram.

"How are we going to keep them from climbing over fences, and running into the streets (this has happened at least five times since we've been on lockdown) as they simply do not understand?"

The situation had affected Ruby's behaviour to the point that she was physically aggressive towards others, and was even harming herself by hitting herself in the head.

"It pains me to deal with a child who has gone from a typically happy, sometimes grumpy teenager to one that is depressed, anxious (constantly asking for hugs and lying on top of me) and aggressive to a point that it scares me," Hamilton wrote.

Her post resounded with plenty of people, with many providing suggestions or commenting that they were in a similar boat. On the suggestion of a fellow resident, Hamilton then attempted to apply for a leave permit under the "emergency" category, and was rejected. She then tried again, with the description "exercise for person of determination" as the reason. This, too, was rejected.

Some suggested getting in contact directly with Dubai Police, while others tagged the police on her behalf. Within 20 minutes of the police being tagged in the post, Hamilton said, she received a call from an officer.

Fourteen-year-old Ruby has Down syndrome and autism. Courtesy Stephanie Hamilton
Fourteen-year-old Ruby has Down syndrome and autism. Courtesy Stephanie Hamilton

"They asked for me by my Instagram name which was quite funny, and then mentioned to me they had read the story and noticed in the comments I said I applied for an emergency pass and was rejected."

The police then told Hamilton that they had looked into her permit history and found no evidence of her applying for an emergency permit, to which she explained that it had been done under her husband's ID number.

"The officer was very kind and very supportive. They said that we could apply for an emergency permit but that it must be detailed in the description so the person reading it understands."

The next time she tried to acquire a permit, Hamilton wrote a more detailed description: "My daughter has Down syndrome and autism. If she is unable to go outside she can become very angry and upset. We would like to ask permission to take her on a bike ride as this calms her down." Her request was accepted immediately.

This meant Hamilton's husband was able to take Ruby out for her bike ride on Saturday morning.

The National called Dubai Police's permit hotline, and they confirmed that people of determination could use the emergency permit to go outdoors.

"The four minutes it took Ruby to do her bike ride today made all the difference in the world ... we had been given an hour permit, but she only wanted four minutes!"

Hamilton told The National they were now allowed to take Ruby out twice a day, the maximum number the emergency permit allows. It meant she and her husband had been able to go out with Ruby once each per day either in the car or for a bike ride for about 10 minutes.

After making the information public, she said a friend had shared a video of her taking her disabled son for a ride in the car yesterday, and he was "jumping up and down with excitement in his seat".

Ruby's mood had improved vastly in just 24 hours, too. As Hamilton spoke to The National, Ruby could be heard in the background cheering.

Hamilton has suggested that a good idea would be providing parents of children with disabilities with informative lanyards, similar to the sunflower lanyards worn by people with hidden disabilities in the UK, so it was clear they were not flouting the law while outside.

She said it was important for parents of children with disabilities or dealing with mental health issues to be very detailed in their descriptions for the leave permits, so they can get outside briefly, too.

"I am very grateful and my heart is filled with love and kindness from all that was received through the compassion and caring in this community," she said in a later Instagram post, which also thanked Dubai Police for "their amazing care and attitude".

Updated: April 19, 2020 12:49 PM

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