ABU DHABI // Parents of special-needs children have hit out at medical insurers and educational institutions over the cost of treatment and schooling for their offspring.
They said insurers should help to cover the cost of assistive technology (AT), devices that help those with special needs to perform functions they otherwise cannot or find difficult to do. They claimed special-needs schools were far more expensive than regular schools.
Reema Shetty’s 14-year-old son, Harshil, has made use of AT for three years. He has spastic cerebral palsy with moderate developmental delay. He uses an electric wheelchair for mobility that cost his parents Dh12,000.
To communicate he has a touch device.
Mrs Shetty is happy with her son’s progress thanks to the technology. “It’s a continuous and huge investment, which perhaps not everyone can do.”
The 37-year-old Indian said it was time that medical insurers took more responsibility and covered the costs of such care.
“Therapies are very expensive here. Medical insurance should give the proper cover to all children.”
Mrs Shetty, a Dubai resident for 16 years, also has an able-bodied nine-year-old. She said that fees for special-needs schools were much higher than traditional schools. Fees generally started at about Dh40,000 a year.
“In mainstream schools, you have options as per your pocket, but we don’t have such options with special education.”
S K, a mother of two special-needs girls, age 6 and 3 respectively, said she could not afford to send them to school.
The 29-year-old Indian said it was challenging for her husband and herself to afford the education and other learning requirements for the children, both of whom are inflicted with slow brain growth.
“My husband works in a private company in Abu Dhabi. He is the sole earner, not only for us, but is also supporting parents and siblings back home,” S K said.
“The special-needs educational institutes are expensive and beyond the pocket of middle-class expatriate families. Forget about two, I cannot send even one to school or provide the right AT equipment.”
Deepika Gopalarao, who works as a coordinator of special services and AT at Al Noor Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities, said for many children with special needs assistive technology was a lifeline
“The cost of AT may increase with the growth and requirement of the child. For example, the eye-gaze equipment for those children who cannot do other physical movement except eye movement. For such children, the technology is very expensive at about Dh40,000 [per device].”
Ms Gopalarao said her institute tried to secure sponsorship for children who could not afford the treatment but they were not always able enough to get it.
“It is constant support that a child needs. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t.”
Source: uae news