'Determined' to stand on par with UAE's support
Heba's artwork was displayed at the World Art Dubai exhibition.
GDD is no match for the 12-year-old Heba who continues to push her limits to learn
The UAE is a leading country for disability support in the region, courtesy of its conscious efforts to enhance the lives of people of determination, and Pakistani youth such as Heba Ali Khan is among many that are showing signs of improvement.
The 12-year-old Sharjah resident is diagnosed with Global Development Delay (GDD), which was identified late. However, her parents Farheen Sheikh and Anwar Ali Khan shared that it is thanks to the country's initiatives, awareness campaigns as well as established centres that Heba is able to live her life in comfort.
"I had faced a lot of difficulty at first when Heba was diagnosed and we struggled to truly understand the problem. At first, we noticed her lack of speech, but as she is so intelligent, she created her own sign language, which, of course, as a mother only I could understand what she's asking for.
"In due time, the UAE government introduced a lot of programmes and activities that greatly raised awareness about people of determination and helped Heba be a part of society. Life has become a little easier for determined ones compared to say, 10 years ago," she said.
Upon our meeting, Heba appeared as a sweet shy girl with a passion for music and collecting stationery. She is also well-acquainted with her phone, giving us the delight of hearing her favourite tunes, most of which are upbeat desi melodies featuring the dholki.
She is currently enrolled at the Special Needs Future Development Centre (SNF), which features individualised learning programmes and vocational training with the inclusion of electronic teaching aids, to develop determined young adults professionally. While the centre usually accepts children above the age of 14, Heba's positive assessment earned her a seat in September 2018.
"Since then, she has been getting better in many areas - her speech and the way she walks improved, her physical appearance is better, and so much more. She has a very unique contrast of being extremely shy but also confident at the same time," Farheen beamed.
At SNF, Heba was introduced to the world of arts and crafts, which sparked a strong interest in the field. With blue as her favourite colour, Heba created an artwork that was recently showcased at the renowned World Art Dubai exhibition.
"Heba developed a profound interest in colours and strokes, and with assistance, she started exploring them. She enjoys her time at the centre and has made many friends too," said Farheen.
And that's not all! Heba also auditioned for the upcoming 'Fashion For All' show, and was selected as a model. She is now attending rehearsals and will make her debut on the catwalk at Al Ghurair Centre, Dubai on September 7.
"We are happy that the UAE provides various platforms for people of determination, and gives them a chance to come forward and work through whatever difficulties they may have," her mother added.
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"Being a proud Pakistani, I would really feel privileged if our country has more awareness for special needs and have a modified plan for young adults to become a part of society. They still lack the respect they should get from others. There should be centres where adults can have aggressive professional trainings in sales and other respected fields.
"Even if our Pakistani community here could be of any help, that would be great. We lack in inclusion back home, the determined ones should be treated with equality and respect, and not be felt secluded. It's the society's responsibility to create awareness for inclusion amongst the different schools and institutions with special needs and introduce certain programmes to create harmony in the society."
- Farheen Sheikh, Heba's mother
Heba Ali Khan with her parents Farheen and Anwar during an interview at their home in Sharjah. — KT photo by Dhes Handumon