"Ahmad is a shy boy. He does not play with his peers or even with his sister,” says Sana’a. “I used to fear for his well-being. Every day I would worry that my child will not have any friends or kids to play with."
Sana'a is a mother to 5-year-old Ahmad who was diagnosed with autism. Initially, his family did not know how to deal with his condition.
"It was a struggle. I thought to myself (Ahmad) will not be able to go to school and will just sit alone at home. I couldn't leave him alone which meant that I was not able to fully look after the house or his sister."
Day care centre provides hope
Now, however, Sana'a has registered Ahmad in a day care centre in Azraq Refugee Camp where her family has been living for 4 years since leaving Syria. The centre is run by Plan International, alongside Dubai Cares.
"Now his teachers tell me that he is playing with other kids, he has friends and he even fights for his turn on the swings," says Sana’a.
Ahmad’s teachers have noticed a considerable change in his behaviour since he started attending the day care centre.
Learning new skills
One teacher said, "When he first came, he used to sit beside me all the time and he would be afraid to meet other kids. In the long term, this could have devastating effects on his social skills and his early childhood development.
"We had to take him and make him feel comfortable and safe. We introduced him to each of his peers individually and assigned a friend to him every week".
The teacher stressed the need to have safe spaces for boys and girls to play and "be children".
"In the camp, there are no spaces for children to play or express themselves in a safe environment. Parents can't even buy something as simple as stationery for the children in camp because nothing is available".
Thanks to the continued partnership between Dubai Cares and Plan International, Ahmad now enjoys his time at the day care centre and has even begun to learn the alphabet and pick up basic maths and language skills.