Tear down social barriers to help mentally disabled children
November 14, 2017 | 10:24 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan/[email protected]
Special Olympics Oman organised an open day at the Qurum Natural Park to integrate people with intellectual disabilities. -ONA

Muscat: Parents of children with intellectual disabilities in Oman have stressed the need for the breakdown of social stigmas against them, in order for society to truly benefit from their talents.

They were speaking to Times of Oman at the Special Olympics open day, which was held at Qurum Natural Park on Tuesday evening.

Organised by Special Olympics Oman, the event was held to celebrate the special, sometimes intangible skills of these children, each one of whom is just as important as the rest of the Sultanate’s next generation.

“I want to tell everyone that our children are just like everyone else,” said Sulaiman Al Subhi, who had come to the event all the way from Nizwa, a good 140km away.

“There needs to be education and awareness about the stigmas surrounding disabled children, because they are not that different from the rest of the children.

Al Subhi is a father of two children, one who suffers from Down Syndrome, and another who has speech impediments. Both of them do okay at school, but they would benefit better from going to a specialised one, according to their father. “My children go to regular school like everyone else, because I have a job in Nizwa, and there are no facilities there for them to attend,” he added.

“They do okay, but they need better facilities and good following-up so that they can be assessed from time-to-time and a good path can be chosen for them. Right now, all the facilities are centralised in Muscat, and it is very difficult for me to take them to school here every day, and I can only come here for special events like this one.”

Also present at the event was Ahmed Al Sammadi. After seeing his offspring struggle to cope with their peers because of the effects of Down Syndrome, he founded ‘Little Angels’, a non-profit organisation that looks to find solutions to make these children’s lives better and bring out the best in them.

“In Oman, one of the main problems facing these children is the culture,” he revealed.

“There needs to be acceptance from the society at large into making these children a part of them. With the help of the government, we have been able to found some schools for these children, but more needs to be done. We understand that there is a need to have these facilities elsewhere as well, and in order to spread awareness about acceptance, we hold many meetings in the other towns and villages in the country, because this is the most important thing

“It’s not really the children who are shocked by the disabilities they unfortunately suffer from, but the parents, and we need to help them with this,” added Al Sammadi. “Disabled children also sometimes need special toys, which we are unable to procure from here, so we need to get them from London.”

Adnan Al Owaibi is a coach who has been working with disabled children. His proudest moment took place when one of his charges won a gold medal at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria last year.

“At a similar event last year, one of my children won a medal, and I was so proud,” he recalled. “His father had approached me just one day after we had a similar event like this last year, and I saw that he was able to play sports really well. When we work with disabled children, we cannot start them playing sports straight away, but we have to encourage them to walk, then run, and then play. It would really help us if the clubs in Oman opened their doors to disabled children, because they have the skills. They need to unite with the other players for society to accept them.”

The event was organised by HH Sayyid Faisal bin Turki Al Said, chairman of Special Olympics Oman, who said, “Raising awareness about people with intellectual disabilities is the first step to creating a socially inclusive community. It is all about changing attitudes, one athlete, one volunteer and one family member at a time. This event was organised to show us all that together, we can create a more accepting world and better future for us all.”

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