x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Emirati boy with Down Syndrome makes great progress

Dhahi, 8, has travelled a long way, with the unconditional love and support of his parents.

Dhahi with his sister Afifa, brother Nahayan and their mother Wadha at their home.
Dhahi with his sister Afifa, brother Nahayan and their mother Wadha at their home.

"I want iPad," Dhahi repeated to his siblings in the living room of their home.

Dressed in his little kandura, he had no problem expressing himself.

But Dhahi, who has Down syndrome, has travelled a long way, with the unconditional love and support of his parents, to get to that stage.

Now 8, the UAE national can dress himself, eat, go to the toilet, play video games and is now starting to string words together.

When he was only five months old his parents enrolled him in the Early Intervention Centre in Sharjah.

He made such dramatic progress that therapists soon said he was ready to move on.

He attended Emirates British Nursery, then the Sharjah International Academy. But after moving away from Sharjah the family needed a closer school.

Wadha Al Mutawa, Dhahi's mother, struggled to get him into a school in Dubai.

"I wanted to enrol Dhahi into the same school all his siblings were enrolling in," she said. "At first the school accepted and said 'yes we can take them all'.

"But then, after finding out about Dhahi, they told me there's no space available for him.

"What I found strange is that the school had many other children, western children, with poorer conditions than Dhahi."

The school's rejection frustrated her. Mrs Al Mutawa tried five more international schools but received the same response.

"They would either say there's no space or that they don't have the resources to look after him," she said.

She did not want to put Dhahi in a special-needs centre because she thought he was more advanced than the other children. So she found a day-learning programme at a private centre.

But the service does not come cheap. The family pays Dh10,000 a month and her husband's company only recently started covering the extra Dh4,000 for speech and occupational therapy.

"Yes, this does put a financial load on us but thank God we can afford it," Mrs Al Mutawa said. "What if we couldn't? What would happen then?"

She said she would like to see less prejudice against youngsters with disorders.

"Given the right opportunity my son also has the potential to succeed," she said. "A lot is being done but clearly it's not enough. "

mismail@thenational.ae