An Abu Dhabi institution is helping parents learn about their children's disabilities and how to help overcome them.
Parents and carers learn to help special children
ABU DHABI //The physiotherapist Usama Mohammed put three-year-old Mabkhout al Minhali on his lap and moved his arms to help him catch coloured cubes and balls.
Although Mabkhout is blind and suffers from development deficiencies that limit his control over his body, repeated therapy has brought him to the point where he can follow instructions and carry out the exercises with some help.
The short training session was to show parents and carers how to teach disabled children such exercises at home.
Coinciding with the sixth GCC Disability Week, the Abu Dhabi Rehabilitation and Care Centre for Special Needs People is holding a series of lectures and workshops on various forms of care.
The programmes, which include feeding techniques and treatment with music, end on Thursday.
The mother of three-year-old Hamda al Awadhi sat next to her on the floor as her physiotherapist helped her daughter to stand on a red balance platform.
"Obviously, no one walks on such an unstable surface but this is to teach her a sense of balance," explained her instructor, Almontaser-Billah al Ghoun.
Other women at the workshop asked Hamda's mother what other exercises she had used to help her daughter reach that level.
"I always train her on the walker at home and we have a balance ball and board," her mother said.
Hamda and her twin, Aysha, were born prematurely at six months. But their parents' quick response gave them major developmental improvements, as Aysha started walking at the age of two and Hamda, who has a weaker build, recently started standing.
"We started stretching exercises and physiotherapy when they were four months," their mother said. The mother, who has a degree in nutrition, said she put her career on hold as she was completely dedicated to her daughters' development.
"When we travel in the summer we also enrol them in centres in the US, and I'm always with them there, so I learn all the techniques and then apply them at home."
Khulood al Mohammed, the head of the healthcare department at the centre, said the parents' academy was important in helping to familiarise parents with their children's disabilities and how to deal with them.
"The problem is that some parents are scared of touching their children in order not to hurt them," Ms al Mohammed said.
When the parental training courses began in 2009, some parents were hesitant and required convincing, "but then we exceeded our target of 100 per year and we trained 126", she added.
Abdullah Ali, 25, sat in his wheelchair and proudly showed off the products he and his occupational training class produced, such as crafts they sell at markets.
Mr Ali, a quadriplegic, has been training to create such crafts since he was a child.
"If you take a look, you have to buy as well," he joked.