The opening of the Doris Duan-Young Autism Centre in Dubai Healthcare City heralds a new step towards helping many in the emirate who live with the condition. Benita Adesuyan sits down with its founder.
The number of children affected by autism is on the rise globally. In the UK, a Cambridge University study revealed one in 58 children have some form of the condition, and in the US, one in 68 children are diagnosed with it according to a study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here in Dubai, a city of more than 200 nationalities, the need for services to help children and families cope with the demands of autism is huge.
Autism is a neural development disorder that affects social, emotional and verbal abilities. The condition often presents itself in children by the age of three and tends to affect boys more than girls. There is no cure, but support is available and Doris Duan-Young has dedicated her professional life to improving the lives of people with autism. The autism expert launched her first clinic in Orlando, US, in 1999 and opened her first international clinic in Dubai on April 2 this year to coincide with World Autism Day.
Duan-Young, born in China, believes that the centre will offer people with autism a chance to see some progress and provide support for their families with an approach focused on care. ‘Our core value is unconditional love – if you walk in with an attitude of “I’m going to fix them,” that’s not going to work. It doesn’t matter how bad their behaviour is, you go in with an open heart and their behaviour will change.’
The centre aims to offer a point of difference to other existing services. ‘We have visited all the centres and we found that nowhere else provided services for anybody aged 18 and above. Also, in our centre we have certified behavioural analysts from the US, we have the highest level of staff in our team.’
Duan-Young is passionate about seeing the development of people with autism, referring to it as a ‘calling’ to serve, and is keen to see adults with the disorder provided with proper therapies. ‘For adults, social skills are important in life. We have a room for independent living-training, we also have places set up for local employers to come here and provide simulated work environments for our adult clients so they can work on their skills before they go out to vocational sites.’
The centre currently has ten certified behavioural analysts, and operates an outpatient service so service users can attend therapies daily, or have treatments at home. The centre will be open six days a week.
Part of Duan-Young’s ambition is to challenge misconceptions. ‘People tend to over-generalise children with autism. It’s a big spectrum from highly impaired to high-functioning. Each child is individual. I’ve worked with clients that are non-verbal and won’t wear nappies or clothes, and after we work with them, they can speak and play and are potty trained. We never give up on any child.’
Duan-Young believes the Dubai centre will be a success. ‘We have a good track record for clients that are non-verbal and after therapy the child is able to go to Disney World with staff and that is just amazing.’
Volunteers are welcome to contact the centre to see how they can make a difference in the lives of autistic people. As Duan-Young succinctly puts it: ‘We are going to help to transform client’s lives.’
Doris Duan-Young Autism Centre, 6th floor, Al Razi Building, block 64, , Dubai Healthcare City, www.dubaiautism.com (no number).
More support for children and families
Dubai Foundation for Women and Children
This shelter is for women and children who have been the victims of domestic violence, child abuse and trafficking. DFWAC offers a 24-hour hotline and provides family counselling and support.
www.dfwac.ae (04 606 0300).
The LightHouse Arabia
This community mental health clinic offers counselling sessions for those coming to terms with family bereavement, play therapies for children and psychotherapy.
The LightHouse Arabia, Villa 2, Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim 2, www.lighthousarabia.com (04 380 9298).
ADHD Support Group Dubai
A support group to help sufferers of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders. Meetings are held on the first Monday of each month.
7.30pm. Jumeirah Baccalaureate School, off Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 1, www.facebook.com.dubaiadhdsupportgroup (050 953 5075).