UAE: This unique initiative is enabling skill-sharing for children of determination

One group of parents is going the extra mile to achieve that dream

By Karishma Nandkeolyar

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Published: Thu 29 Feb 2024, 8:46 PM

One goal unites most parents: the need to empower their child; to see them grow, to see them thrive and be the best they can be.

One group of parents is going the extra mile to achieve that dream. The group P2P (Parent to Professional) is made up of parents of Children of Determination. “We are parents of individuals with special needs and we’ve studied and [most of us] are also working in the same field — special education needs (SEN),” explains Sujatha Anandram, who has a child on the autism spectrum.

“My vision in P2P is to utilise the skills I’ve acquired to benefit both children and parents alike,” explains Revathi.

Towards this end, the group holds workshops and teaches children basic skills that can translate into a career. The workshops they’ve held so far are block printing and salad making.

“Initially, we [just] used to hang out with our children. And then we realised that we need to start a workshop, which will benefit other children also. Bringing this thought on table, we thought that there should be an activity which all children can do in spite of the degree of their condition,” explains Shyni Gopal, a mum of two 18-year-olds on the autism spectrum.

“I had suggested block printing, and then a friend’s friend who is an artist trained us with this block printing. We started meeting every month, twice, at different places. And we continued doing this for almost a year,” she says.

It’s paid off — many children of determination now have Instagram pages where they display and sell their work. The workshops also culminated in a showcase of the work they have been doing. On February 18, the group hosted a fashion show. “It was a fashion show of clothes that were upscaled by doing block printing on them. The kids walked the ramp with the parents in clothes and accessories that were block printed,” says a proud Vasanthi Sunder.

The end goal is, explain the mums, independent living. “They should have, we should all have a community, which we have, a proper residential facility with a skill development center,” says Gopal.

The issues of segregation begin at the time of schooling. “So you know usually what happens is when the parents know about the diagnosis when they try to get them into mainstream schools. Some of them manage mainstream schools, some of them are not able to handle their pressure. So they go back to special schools. But still, there should be some skill that we should develop in each one of them and some kind of life skills, something that they can keep themselves occupied with,” says Sunder.

“We are planning to introduce more things like maybe soap-making, or you know, candy-making. It’s deeply satisfying to see that some of them have progressed so well,” she adds.

And it’s not just about empowering the kids — it’s also about providing support to the parents. “We also hold workshops for parents regarding financial planning. And also, about strategies that will work. Some behaviour issues come with these children with autism, so we have an expert who talks about what you can do [to deal with these issues]. Then, we had invited somebody to talk about how we can think of a residential home for these children, where, you know, parents and the kid stays, and the kid stays [after] the parents [pass on],” she says.

Sunder, who has been in Dubai for 30 years, says there have been many positive developments for People of Determination over the years. “When my son was diagnosed with autism, it was very difficult to get him into any mainstream school to start with. It was a huge challenge. There were a few schools even at that time, who agreed, and I tried it out. It was very difficult. But now the scene has completely changed. You know, it’s become mandatory for most schools to have a SEN department,” she says.

Sunder adds that the UAE is making great strides in becoming more inclusive. “For example, there’s a card for People of Determination and if you show this at an airport, for example, they are given priority. The Salik card is free for the car in which the child will travel. There is something called a Sunflower lanyard, if you’re wearing it, then you are given priority treatment, in hotel lobbies, in airports, in many of these public places, so these are all very positive changes brought by the government of UAE,” she adds.

The Sunflower lanyard is a card that explains that you have a disability or condition that may not immediately be apparent. It is a card recognised globally.

“I would say the biggest, biggest thing about UAE is that it's a very safe place for our children,” she says.

She recalls the instance of a child with autism who recently went missing from his house. “He was found. I mean, I don't think in any other part of the world, it would happen. Because the problem is that these children do not communicate. They will not be able to tell them where they live. But because we live in Dubai, you know, that fear isn’t there. It has happened to me personally, a couple of times when my son has actually gone out of the house. But in half an hour, he was back home, I didn't even have to go to the police station to make a complaint,” she says.

Now, the group is looking to expand, to welcome other parents into the fold. Have a Child of Determination or would like to be a part of the team? Write to

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