Young children are the first to be screened for delays in speech, motor skill development, communication and learning as part of an early intervention programme that will be set up across Dubai.
On Sunday, a van pulled up outside the Al Basateen kindergarten in Hatta with therapists who observed through activities and questions how children up to the age of six years could cut paper, trace drawings, identify colours and basic shapes.
“The check is to see where the child fits in the [developmental] spectrum, then we focus on educating the parents and if there is a possibility of a disability then we put an intervention programme together,” said Khaled Al Kamda, director general of the Community Development Authority.
Early screening was also intended to detect social and behavioural impairments.
Inside the brightly-painted, spacious van filled with shape blocks, puzzles, books and toys, therapists checked communication skills of children and observed their reflexes.
The health teams also reassured those parents who worried about their child’s enunciation and clarity of speech and gave advice on using visual stimulation to aid learning.
The screening this week will cover the Khadija Bint Khuwailed School, Hatta School for Boys, and screen babies taken to Hatta Hospital for vaccination.
Meetings with parents will address concerns about why children were being screened.
“We will be talking to parents about what to do if there is a disability and not to be ashamed, not to hide it,” Mr Kamda said.
“The problem is, most people shy away from this. We will also answer queries of parents who want to know why their child is being tested. The idea is that parents understand where and how to seek help. We are saying to parents: don’t wait, come over and let us check your children.”
Shaima Mekawy, the mother of Ahmed Mustafa, 5, also planned to take her three-year-old child for the tests.
“This is the first time my son is being checked,” she said on learning that Ahmed’s development was normal.
“If there is a problem we can know what is possible. There is a difficulty that some children have with speech and this can help.”
The project is run in cooperation with the Dubai Health Authority and the Sheikha Maitha bin Rashid Centre for Children with Special Needs.
The CDA will schedule other visits later this week.
“A positive test can cause confusion and frustration. We are here to give families ease and comfort,” said Sheikha Alia Al Qassimi, acting chief executive of CDA’s social care and development sector.
“We want to spread awareness that disability is no one’s fault.”
The campaign will also encourage the disabled to register for the Sanad card to take advantage of discounts in government services. This would help determine the number and nature of disabilities in the emirate.
© The NationalApr 2016