A parent’s guide for protecting children from heights

Measures especially important for children with disabilities

By Nada AlTaher, Staff Reporter
21:20 November 5, 2012

Abu Dhabi: After the death of a five year-old child in a two-storey fall in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, the Ministry of Interior has urged federal and private entities involved in setting engineering requirements for buildings, to unify safety regulations country-wide.

In a bid to prevent children’s fatal falls, the Ministry of Interior has also announced that it will heighten awareness campaigns for families across society.

The ministry’s Child Protection Centre has released an awareness manual in Arabic, English and Urdu in cooperation with the Department of Municipal Affairs and the Sharjah Town Planning And Survey Department, among other sectors through which the best ways of keeping children protected were identified.

Lieutenant Colonel Faisal Mohammed Al Shammari, Director of the Child Protection Centre at the Abu Dhabi Police General Headquarters urged all parents to take responsibility for their children to prevent falls from heights — which he says have recently started to increase due to parents’ negligence in taking necessary safety measures.

The Child Protection Centre at the headquarters will set up a workshop to study the procedures needed to protect children from falling from heights and balconies.

Al Shammari also said that judicial departments place responsibility on parents who have caused harm on their children with sentences for negligence charges which caused harm to children under 15 years or those who are unable to protect themselves, such as those suffering from disabilities, aged between one month to two years.

Meanwhile, the Higher Committee for Child Protection at the Ministry has given its condolences for the death of the child who was reported to have been suffering from autism.

On Saturday evening, the five-year-old, identified as H.A, fell from the balcony of his home on the second floor of the building on Al Muroor Road in the capital.

Brigadier General Maktoum Al Sharifi, Head of the Abu Dhabi Metropolitan Police Department said that a preliminary assessment of the incident indicated that the boy, of Arab nationality, walked towards the balcony without his parents realising.

He then proceeded to climb a concrete column which led him to a metre-high aluminium fence near the window.

The boy lost his balance, fell off the fence and died after hitting the ground.

According to a witness H.A had the tendency to wander off if he was not being constantly supervised.

Um Ali, an Emirati mother of five, who has an 11-year-old girl suffering from autism, told Gulf News that caring for a child with special needs requires many safety measures.

“For those with mental disabilities, and children in general it is wise to remember that windows need to be locked at all times. I saw my autistic daughter Fatima watching the window and I feared for her life so I got all windows sealed with aluminium locks,” the 43-year-old mother said.

Having another son who suffers from growth and learning disabilities, Um Ali highlighted the importance of keeping children with special needs under constant supervision.

“Children with speech disabilities can learn about dangerous situations through oral training while those with more severe cases can be taught through visual aids which demonstrate scenarios representing the dangers of heights, sharp objects, crossing the streets among other things,” she added.

Dr Veerna Luthra, American Board certified child psychiatrist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi, said: “Children with autism have a difficult time in identifying what could be classified as dangerous to their health, whether it was sharp or hot objects, heights, cars and the like.

“In parallel to that, one of the core symptoms of autism is that that they do not communicate in the same way and often suffer from speech and language deficiencies.

“They definitely need more supervision, a five-year-old needs to be monitored anyway, but a special needs child of the same age would require even more attention,” the expert said.