Rebecca Corley, founder of the All 4 Down Syndrome support group talks about the challenges Down Syndrome patients face and how a new law could change things for them. Excerpts from an interview:
Dubai What are the main challenges facing children and adults with Down Syndrome in the UAE?
The main challenge is for parents to get children admitted into nurseries and schools as around 80 per cent of them are not inclusive. But high functioning children with Down Syndrome have a right to function in mainstream schools.
So where is the problem?
Most schools have long waiting lists and there are more and more kids who need learning support these days. In nearly nine out 10 times, children with Down Syndrome don’t get a chance because they need a full time shadow teacher/learning support assistant (LSA) which the parents must provide.
That again is an issue?
Of course. Financial support is a huge challenge. Even if admission is secured, parents may not always be able to send them to school because of the high costs – it could take anywhere between Dh5,000 and Dh8,000 per month to get a shadow teacher/ LSA.
How can this be addressed?
Every school must have a floating number of shadow teachers/LSAs under their umbrella.
What about employability of adults with Down Syndrome?
Very few people with Down Syndrome employed in the UAE receive a salary. But I feel if they are succeeding in doing their duties through the day, they deserve to get paid because like other adults, they too want to be able to buy the latest mobile phones or hang out with friends in a shopping mall.
How will the new law change things?
In the last 10 years, Dubai has had a successful inclusion policy for children and adults with Down Syndrome. The most crucial thing for the new law is to recognise them as individuals.