Autistic kids do attend mainstream schools in UAE

Dubai Health Authority experts attend the smart clinic meeting (Supplied)

Experts from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) highlighted various services available at the DHA facilities for differently-abled persons and emphasized on the need for early detection, social interaction and community support  to help improve the lives of such patients and to help them live life as independently as possible.

Dubai Health Authority held a smart clinic from the DHA stand at AccessAbilities Expo 2016.

Gamal Youssef, consultant phoniatrician at Dubai Hospital said the hospital provides multi-disciplinary care for differently-abled children and adults. “The most common condition we see at the clinic is hearing impairment and our hospital is fully equipped to diagnose, treat and provide post-treatment rehabilitation services. In terms of treatment we provide hearing aids and have a team of specialists who are experts in cochlear implants.”

Youssef said the second most common condition is autism. The hospital treats around 200 patients per year for autism. “Over the years, the number of patients we see has definitely increased; this can be due to rise in awareness or to a certain extent rise in the number of cases or a combination of both factors.”

Youssef highlighted that early detection is most important for improved patient outcome. “At the hospital, we pay great emphasis not only on treatment but also on training parents and caregivers because a doctor or a therapist spends an hour a week with the patient but it is the patient’s caregivers that spend the rest of time with the patient and therefore caregiver training and education is key to manage the condition.”

Youssef said that every case of autism is different and there are cases in which children are able to go to mainstream schools as well.

Nizar Al Harbat, senior paediatrician at Dubai Hospital, emphasises on the importance of early detection. “The neonatal screening which is mandatory in the UAE is one of the best ways to diagnose and treat certain abnormalities early on. In fact, some conditions are completely curable if detected early on and this given an opportunity to the child can live a life free of any disorder.”

In terms of differently-abled adults, stroke patients are the most common the clinic receives.

Abir Aly Abbasy, senior physiatrist at Dubai Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre said the centre provides multi-disciplinary care and has various services available for differently-abled people at the centre.

These include medical rehabilitation, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, hydrotherapy, orthotics, social care, psychological care, clinical nutrition, pharmacy, laboratory and emergency medicine for patients of the centre.

Haidar Wreidan, speech therapist at Latifa Hospital, said that the hospital’s paediatric rehabilitation unit offers comprehensive services to tackle all areas of developmental delays in children.  Physicians and therapists see patients from new-borns to 13 years of age across all areas including physiotherapy , occupational therapy , speech therapy, therapy for language and  swallowing difficulties, assessment of premature infants as well as fabrication of orthotics.

Latifa Hospital has an early intervention program to ensure developmental delays are identified early on for better patient outcomes.

Wreidan said, “As a child grows and develops, he learns different skills, such as smiling for the first time, saying his first word etc. These skills are known as developmental milestones. There is normal variation around what age children will achieve a specific developmental milestone. Developmental delay refers to a child who is not achieving milestones within the age range of that normal variability.”

Wreidan said the challenge for parents is to identify whether the developmental delay is just a phase or it is due to a disability that will cause a long-term issue with development or learning. “Most often, at least initially, it is difficult or impossible to determine whether the delay is a marker of a long-term issue with development or learning (i.e. known as a disability) or whether the child will ‘catch-up’ in their development and learning.  Therefore parents need to be alert, take note of the delays and visit a therapist to ensure early detection.”

Wreidan said milder forms of cerebral palsy, autism, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders (ADHC) are the disorders that are usually missed and parents bring their children when they are of school-going age. “The earlier the diagnosis the better the chances are of long-term recovery for the child because optimal brain development takes place until the age of four years. Therefore the best outcomes are in children who are diagnosed as early as possible.”

The most common disorders that the Unit sees are cerebral palsy (CP) , autism, ADHD, down syndrome and other genetic syndrome.

Developmental milestones can be divided into some categories. These include muscular skills to sit, run etc., hand and finger skills to eat, dress etc., language, cognitive and social skills.

Wreidan said it is important for parents to educate themselves about these milestones so that they can keep track of it.

He also added the every member of our community is responsible to ensure that such patients are well integrated in society and receive our support, love and care.

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