Abu Dhabi: Every week Kelly Morrison receives several phone calls from parents with special needs' children asking for advice about where they can get specialist help.

In Abu Dhabi, 200 babies with special needs are born every year and parents panic due to lack of choices to help their children.

Morrison is a primary school teacher with an eight-year old daughter, Isabelle, who has Down's Syndrome, which is a condition of slow mental and physical development.

During her 18 months in Abu Dhabi, she realised not much was done to help children with special needs. Being experienced enough to handle similar situations due to her daughter's condition she decided to help.

She ran a playgroup for young children below the age of five and has been inundated with calls for help since families came to know of her special playgroup.

Since then Morrison realised a clear need for an early intervention centre, and partnered with her friend Annelies Hedditch to open a 'non-profit' nursery called Abu Dhabi Early Intervention Centre (ADEIC).

It can accommodate six children to a class and expects to attract 24 children during the first year. The centre will include infants from three to 18 months who will be placed in a playgroup run by a qualified teacher and there will be singing and games, art and craft activities to develop the children's social skills.

In the higher classes, the children will be taught self-help skills so that they can begin to be independent. "Children learn through play much easier," says Hedditch. "Feeling sorry for those kids is not enough, we need to help them," she adds.

Normal school

"When my daughter was diagnosed with Down's syndrome I felt like my world had fallen apart, but I was lucky because now she is doing much better than I had ever imagined. I really feel for families who do not have options to help their children," says Morrison.

"My ultimate aim with children like my daughter Isabelle is to place them in a normal environment with normal kids and make them feel like they are accepted in the community," she said.

Early Intervention (EI) is a term applied to specially designed programmes for young children who have special needs. Various advisors and consultants help children with special needs, some of whom include physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and special education teachers.

The primary objective of EI is to address problems when the child's development is at its most rapid, and hence has the greatest possible impact. "Isabelle is currently placed in a normal school with normal children of her age group but with special aid from a teacher. I don't see why these children cannot be allowed an opportunity. They can take up jobs in the future and be productive one day," she said.

Many schools she approached to enroll Isabelle, rejected her. "People need to get used to accepting such children. Not everyone is responsive to the matter. But I believe change will happen, but slowly and I'm prepared to be a part of that change," added Morrison.

Parents need to put in a lot of effort to help their child. As the centre is a non- profit organisation, it relies on donations from the community. A minimum amount of Dh2million is needed to help setting up the centre. For further information email abudhabi.eic@gmail.com.