Plans to set up Down Syndrome centre

National 1 minute, 59 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE Down Syndrome Association (DSA) is currently in talks with government agencies to set up a centre for children with Down Syndrome.

In an interview with The Brunei Times, DSA President Siti Zaliha Hj Abu Salim said: “In the future, we intend to have a centre to have activities for our children, to train them and also train the parents.“

Currently the association is borrowing space from Special Olympics Brunei Darussalam (SOBD) and other associations for their activities.

Siti Zaliha said she was moved to establishing DSA, after her five-year-old son was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

She hopes that the association can make a difference for others with Down’s.

DSA was formally registered in September 2012 and works closely with the Child Development Centre (CDC). Currently there are 84 members of DSA but according to figures from the Ministry of Health there are around 300 people with Down Syndrome in the country.

Siti Zaliha noted that the figure might be higher but parents of children with Down Syndrome are unwilling to register their children with the DSA due to social stigma.

“Parents sometimes don’t want to reveal that their children have Down Syndrome,” she explained.

Most activities carried out by DSA were geared towards raising awareness through exhibitions and courses for parenting children with special needs.

“Down Syndrome awareness is still lacking, when people see children with Down Syndrome they still feel scared, this stems from people not understanding it,” she said.

Siti Zaliha explained that at school there are special needs teachers provided by the Special Education Unit but it needs to be supplemented by private tuition.

Children with Down’s are included in class however following specialist advice they are not able to follow the curriculum.

“Private tuition cost lots of money, in one week it is around $200 or more. This depends on how long the private class is,” she said.

According to her, if DSA had a centre, parents would be able to work with each other in teaching children with Down Syndrome there.

“At the moment, many individuals with Down Syndrome don’t have jobs since they lack skills. Previously there wasn’t awareness about the syndrome in the country, and even until they are older they stay at home watching television and it is ashame. We want our children to be citizens and assets to the country,” she said.

The Brunei Times