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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Families piling weight behind special needs surfing project in Dubai

Free surfing lessons perfect way to encourage community integration

Parents of children with Down syndrome have said surfing is proving the perfect way to integrate those with special needs into communities.

Colombian Andrea Fraser, a trained lawyer and tour guide, has been in Dubai for six years. Her son Santiago, 23, works in a bank and is keenly involved in the surfing sessions.

“I get involved in everything Santi does, he has Down Syndrome but that doesn’t stop him being involved in so many sports. He has a very active life,” she said.

“Like many others like him, he is so capable and often underestimated by people.

“Dubai is an amazing place to live, particularly if you want to get involved in sport.

“Santi is fearless but knows what he is doing. He had never surfed before coming to Dubai and just loves getting in the water with his friends.

“Attitudes towards disabilities are improving all the time, especially in Dubai. There is much more integration now.”

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Rebecca Corley, the mother of a teenage girl with Down syndrome, said she has seen first-hand how mainstreaming enriches everyone’s education.

She founded the All4 Down Syndrome group on Dubai, helping other families to find new opportunities for their children.

“Some of these students are coming from special needs environments so they are mixing with others from main stream environments, sometimes for the first time,” she said.

“They feel far more relaxed when they are working with other people, they may not know each other at first but within a few weeks they are friends and part of their life.

“All the activities we run through the teen scheme are popular, otherwise we wouldn’t be running them.

“Surfing is without a shadow of doubt is the most popular activity.”