Childhood Disability among Students Population in Dubai, School-based
Screening Strategy, Dubai, UAE, 2016
, Aldallal AMRA3
, Al Faisal W2 *, Hussein HY2
, Monsef NA2
, AlBehandy NS2
Primary Health Care Services Sector, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai, UAE
2Health Affairs Department, Primary Health Care Services Sector, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai, UAE
3Health Centres Department, Primary Health Care Services Sector, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai, UAE
Background: Disability is a health problem of public health concern. Screening procedures are an important part of the assessment
process to identify children and youth who have disabilities. However, such procedures must be used with care as they provide only a
preliminary sign that a child has a disability.
Objectives: This study is aiming at screening of childhood disability, physical, mental, developmental and others, among students
population at school facilities in Dubai.
Methodology: The screening was carried out at private schools facilities in Dubai for the period
2015-2016. All students population at private school facilities in Dubai (170) at both (Diera side and Bur Dubai Side) were included.
Schools were screened for identification of disability. About 266000 students were approached through conducting comprehensive
routine annual medical examinations by school physicians, revising students Medical records, and utilizing diagnostic reports provided
by specialist doctors and hospitals.
Results: The study revealed that about 3.2% of total student’s population in private schools in Dubai are suffering from some kind
of disability (4.77% of total Emirati, and 2.99% of total expatriates). Learning disabilities was among the highest prevalent cause of
disability followed by visual impairment and hyperactivity: 1.7%., 0.38% and 0.36 respectively; Regarding physical disability, 0.13
% of the total students population at private schools in Dubai were having some kind of it, and again it is more prevalent among UAE
nationals (0.19%) compared to other expatriate nationalities (0.12%).
Conclusion: Functional and structural impairments and disabilities among Dubai school population at private schools facilities showed
alarming prevalence. This raises many questions in terms of applying further tools for further identification as well as the need for
early interventions and early rehabilitation services for better correction. It is recommended to apply well structured and competently
operated national screening program at earlier ages for addressing both identification and intervention/ rehabilitation issues.
Childhood disability, student population, School screening, Dubai 2016
Conflict of interest:
The authors declare that they do not have any conflict of interest.
Screening procedures are an important part of the assessment
process to identify children and youth who have disabilities.
However, such procedures must be used with care, as they
provide only a preliminary sign that a child has a disability.1
disabilities with a clear medical basis are recognized by the child’s
physician or parents soon after birth or during the preschool years.
In contrast, the majority of students with disabilities are initially
referred for evaluation by their classroom teacher (or parents)
because of severe and chronic achievement or behavioral problems.
There is evidence that the prevalence of some disabilities varies by
age. The high-incidence disabilities such as learning disabilities
and speech-language disabilities occur primarily at the mild level.
In mild disabilities, there are no clear demarcations between those
who have and those who do not have the disability, and there is a need to identify mild disabilities because they may constitute
formidable barriers to academic progress and significantly limit
career opportunities. Problems with the current classification
system include stigma to the child, low reliability, poor correlation
between categorization and treatment, obsolete assumptions still in
use in treatment, and proportionate representation of the different
Intellectual disability along with other mental disorders and
epilepsy are highly stigmatizing. Stigma attached to hearing
impairment has also been found. Some researchers have identified
this issue and have tried to address it through their research.4-9
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that worldwide,
around 15 million children aged below 15 are handicapped by
vision due to uncorrected refractive disorders! The WHO estimated
that in 2004, 275 million people were handicapped because of
compromised hearing and 80% of these people lived in low- and
middle-income countries. Recently published results show that
between 2% and 8% people have visual problems and around 6%
have hearing disabilities in countries with limited public healthcare
systems. In many low- and middle-income countries, the
testing of children’s senses is not part of the country’s free primary
health-care system. As a result, children with compromised sight
or hearing may be poorly equipped for the challenges of life. Even
though expenses for glasses and hearing aids may be challenging
and for many, impossible to cover, the knowledge of any existing
handicap is important to help these children have access to an
education.10-17 Previous studies on the situation in Dubai and Dubai private
schools couldn’t be located.
This study is aiming at screening of childhood disabilities, physical,
mental, developmental and others, among students population at
school facilities in Dubai
The screening was carried out at private schools facilities in
Dubai for the period 2015-2016. All students population at private
school facilities in Dubai (170) at both (Diera side and Bur Dubai
Side) were included. Schools were screened for identification
of disability. About 266000 students were approached through
conducting comprehensive routine annual medical examinations
by school physicians, revising students Medical records, and
utilizing diagnostic reports provided by specialist doctors and
The study revealed that about 3.2% of total student’s population in
private schools in Dubai are suffering from some kind of disability
(4.77% in Emarati, and 2.99 in Expatriates), and about 6.3% of
total Emirati males at private schools in Dubai were diagnosed
with one of disabilities as shown by Table Number (1).
Figure 1 shows the distribution of the disabilities among private
schools of Dubai according to the type of the disability. Current
study showed that learning disability was among the highest
prevalence of disability followed by visual impairment and
hyperactivity (1.7%., 0.38% and 0.36) respectively.
Table 2 shows the distribution of the learning disabilities according
to nationality and gender.
This study reflected that about 0.13 % of total students population
at private schools in Dubai were having some kind of physical
disability and again it is more prevalent among UAE nationals
comparing to other expatriate nationalities 0.19 % among UAE
versus 0.12% among Expatriate as appeared in table (3).
It has been shown that Hyperactivity disability among private
school students in Dubai was 0.36%. It is about 0.64 among UAE
males at private schools in Dubai and 0.16% of UAE females,
while 0.56% of expatriate male at private schools in Dubai and
0.13 of expatriate females at private schools in Dubai. As shown
in table (4).
Table 4: Hyperactivity among private school students of Dubai by nationality and gender
In relation to mental disabilities at private schools in Dubai , the
study revealed that about 0.25% of total male and 0.1 of total UAE
females were having mental disability and 0.2 of expatriate male
and 0.11 of expatriate females were shown to having mental disability
. as appeared in table (5).
Table 5: Mental disability among private school students of Dubai by nationality and gender
Concerning visual impairment among private schools students in
Dubai, the study concluded that about 0.82% of UAE males and
0.64 % of UAE females were having visual impairment while it
was 0.42% of expatriate male and 0.25% of expatriate females
were having visual disability among Dubai private schools students
populations. As shown in table (6).
Table 6: Visual disability among private school students of Dubai according to nationality and gender
Table (7) in this study revealed that about 0.18% of UAE males
and 0.15 of UAE females were having hearing disability among
private schools students populations while it was about 0.08% of
expatriate male and 0.08% of expatriate females shown hearing
Table 7: Hearing disability among private school students of Dubai by nationality and gender
Current study reflected that about 0.53% of total UAE males and
0.22%of UAE females have one of developmental disabilities like
(Autism, Down syndrome. Speech delay, Dwarfism and others,
while about 0.62% of expatriate males and 0.27% of expatriate
females were shown to have one of developmental disabilities
among private schools population in Dubai as appeared in table
Other disabilities (Autism, ADHD, down syndrome, dwarfism, speech delay, developmental delay ….)
among private school students of Dubai by nationality and gender.
The study revealed that about 3.2% of total student’s population in
private schools in Dubai suffering from some kind of disabilities.
This figure is less than other figures shown by U.S. Department
of Education, 2004–05 where 5.7% of the nation’s K–12 students
had disabilities;18 and it is almost similar to disabllities among
UAE nationals at private schools in Dubai which was almost equal
The study showed that hearing disability among private school
students in Dubai was 0.09%. Numbers found in other studies, like
the study domne by Blanchfield, et. al., refer to that as many as
738,000 individuals in the U.S. have severe to profound hearing
loss, almost 8% of which are under the age of 18.19,20
Concerning visual disability, current study showed about 0.38
of total students population at private schools in Dubai have got
some visual disability (Impairment), while one Indian study
which enrolled 1123 students found that low vision (visual acuity
< 20/60) in the better eye was observed in 31 (2.9%) children,
and blindness (visual acuity <20/200) was observed in 10 (0.9%)
It has been identified that about 0.16% of total private school students
in Dubai were having some mental disorders or disabilities. This
figure is much less than other figures identified by other studies.
Anxiety/ depression disorder prevalence was 10.28%, age range
was 9-18 years. The reasons given for being anxious were poor self
image, fear of death, repeated physical and sexual abuses by their
care givers and other adults.22 Learning disability was the major
associated comorbid disorder (18.68%). Generalized anxiety was
the most common type of anxiety disorder identified (32.97%).
Anxiety disorders are debilitating chronic conditions.
The study concluded that about 0.36% of the total students
at private schools in Dubai were suffering from hyperactivity
disablity. This figuer is quite less than other figuers identified by
other studies. These figures equate to 5.1%.23-27 Regarding physical disability, the study showed about 0.13 %
of total students population in Dubai private schools are having
some kind of physical activities. This figure is much less than
other figuers shown by other studies. For example, it was much
more prevalent in Ireland and counted for about 2.8% of the total
students at the age 12-15.28
Concerning learning disability, the study concluded that about
1.7% of total private school students in Dubai were having some
degree of learning disability. This figure is less than other figures in
USA which showed that about Twelve percent of the respondents
cited having a learning disability and 8 percent of the parents
surveyed had a child with a learning disability.29
Current study showed that about 0.44% of total student population
at private schools in Dubai were having developmental disability
(autism, down syndrome) which was less than what has been
mentioned in other studies which conducted in India to determine
the prevalence of learning disabilities in school children and has
been reported developmental disabilities to be 3-10 per cent among
Functional and structural impairments and disabilities among Dubai
school population at private schools facilities showed alarming
prevalence. This raise many questions in terms of applying further
tools for further identification as well as raising questions on early
interventions and early rehabilitations for better corrections. It is
recommended to apply well structured and competently operated
national screening program at earlier ages for addressing both
identification and intervention/ rehabilitation issues.
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