x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Family of autistic 16-year-old boy sue special-needs school over treatment

A special-needs centre "arbitrarily" expelled a 16-year-old autistic boy, harming him and putting a burden on his family, according to a lawsuit heard in the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance.

ABU DHABI // A special-needs centre "arbitrarily" expelled a 16-year-old autistic boy, harming him and putting a burden on his family, according to a lawsuit heard in the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance yesterday. The family said the centre expelled the boy, identified as ZJ, originally from Syria, saying only that "he became out of control". The boy's family said that since the centre specialises in treating children with special needs, it needed a better reason to expel him.

The family is demanding financial compensation for ZJ's treatment. His health has deteriorated since leaving the centre in December, according to medical records they presented in court. They said the centre expelled the boy without helping them find an alternative solution, forcing them to be absent from their jobs for several hours every day to take care of him. But the centre said the child, who was treated there for four years, became overly aggressive towards his therapists and fellow students. The centre also said the family was not co-operative in trying to find a solution.

The centre asked the court to adjourn the hearing so witnesses from the school could testify. Six therapists from the school signed the expulsion. Schools are not allowed to turn away children or expel them arbitrarily. Emirati parents are entitled to send their children to special centres, and last autumn, the federal Government began integrating children with disabilities into regular state schools.

Because of the difficulties, many expatriate children with disabilities do not attend school at all. A representative from a special needs centre in Dubai said an autistic person should not be without medication or care, because it could result in the person hurting "himself or the people around him". hhassan@thenational.ae