How these special people in Dubai overcome disabilities to live fulfilling lives


People with special needs are indeed determined people. They fight crippling disabilities to live normal lives. Chandan Tekwani, 47, is one of them. Slightly autistic, the Indian expat has been battling schizophrenia, a serious mental illness, for 17 years, but that hasn’t stopped him from holding down a steady job and becoming largely independent.

Abdulaziz Ahmed Al Faleh, 21, is another determined person. He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a complex neurodevelopmental condition, but the Saudi expat continues to work as a community relations officer.

Sebastián Pablo Navarro, 21, also has ASD. The Argentinian expat, who works part-time as a human resources assistant, is busy improving his IT, administrative and hospitality skills.

Ronnie Mahesh Sherpa, 31, born deaf and mute, also has mild autism. Disabilities have not slowed down the Indian expatriate, a sales executive whose services have drawn praise from his company.

Vikram Anil, 31, cannot speak due to severe apraxia, a neurological disorder that severely limits movement. But that hasn’t limited his creativity; He has written more than 50 poems.

These Dubai residents are just some of the cases that illustrate how determined people overcome their medical conditions to lead active and independent lives. Some institutions in the UAE equip determined individuals with skills to find employment and develop fulfilling careers.

Sanad Village is one such institution. It helps children with ASD to integrate into mainstream society and become independent. Sharareh Zainalian, director of the primary vocational program at Sanad Village, said: “We have a holistic, comprehensive and integrated approach for those affected by ASD. We work to provide them with viable pathways to be part of society so they can be independent and provide for their families. “Our facilities include amenities to develop life skills within a safe space for people of determination.”

Real-life scenarios are simulated and there are creative spaces and areas for exercise and play, Zainalian said, adding that Al Faleh and Navarro have made the most of Sanad Village’s programs. “Her journey underscores the transformative potential of inclusive education, illustrating the limitless opportunities it provides to people determined to thrive,” he said.

How Sanad Village helped Al Faleh

Al Faleh, who suffers from ASD, has been going to Sanad Village for a year to learn new skills, although he has been working for SEE Holding’s community management as a community relations officer. “Abdulaziz has expanded his knowledge of computers and technology and developed planning and organizational skills,” Zainalian said.

“His communication and social skills have improved and he is now able to live independently. He also intends to move from part-time employment to full-time employment,” she added.

Sebastian Pablo Navarro

Argentine expatriate Sebastián Pablo Navarro has ASD. He works part-time as a human resources assistant and is busy improving his skills.
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Navarro, who refuses to be slowed down by ASD, has been training at The Sustainable City in Sanad Village for a year. Part-time human resources assistant at community management SEE Holding, a company based in La Ciudad Sostenible, the Argentine intends to obtain full-time employment, in addition to aspiring to live independently and expand social connections.

“Sebastian [Navarro] He has expanded his knowledge of computers and technology, and developed planning and organizational skills, which helped him land a job as a human resources assistant,” Zainalian explained, adding that his social and communication skills have improved significantly.

Why Tekwani’s family is celebrating

Tekwani is excited at the prospect of going on vacation. His second solo vacation is, in fact, a cause for celebration for Tekwani and his family, as the Indian expatriate suffers from schizophrenia.

Chandan Tekwani

Chandan Tekwani has been battling schizophrenia, but that hasn’t stopped the Indian expat from holding down a steady job and becoming independent.
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

After arriving in the United Arab Emirates when he was three, Tekwani, the youngest of three brothers, returned to India at the age of 14, when his father fell ill. Three years later, his father died and Tekwani’s schizophrenic features flared. Violent outbursts, self-sabotage and hallucinations were some of the distressing signs that led his family to admit him to a rehabilitation center in India.

The lockdown didn’t help. “We didn’t understand it until he tried to take his life. This prompted us to bring him to the UAE,” said Chetwani, Tekwani’s brother-in-law, adding that Tekwani’s condition has improved since then.

“From 19 medications a day it has gone to two. An important factor in the transformation has been work. He has been working for the last 10 years and this has changed his life,” Chetwani said.

schizophrenia box

Tekwani’s mental health is no longer an issue, and the 47-year-old attributes this to his work at Centrepoint Sky Gardens. “I have worked at Landmark Group for 10 years. It has allowed me to grow (he is now a senior sales executive). My colleagues support me a lot. Before I didn’t understand the value of money. Today I do it, thanks to my job,” he said, adding that he has saved a good amount and is financing his vacation in the United States.[he’saseniorsalesexecutivenow)MycolleaguesareverysupportiveBeforeIdidnotunderstandthevalueofmoneyTodayIdothankstomyjob”hesaidaddingthatthe’ssavedahealthyamountandisfundinghisholidayintheUnitedStates[he’saseniorsalesexecutivenow)MycolleaguesareverysupportiveBeforeIdidnotunderstandthevalueofmoneyTodayIdothankstomyjob”hesaidaddingthathe’ssavedahealthyamountandisfundinghisholidayintheUnitedStates

Raza Beig, CEO and Founding Director of Splash and Director of Centrepoint, Landmark Group, said: “We offer jobs and opportunities to determined people to find their confidence and financial independence. As employers, we believe that equal opportunities should be provided to all deserving candidates who can add value to our workforce.”

Ronnie Sherpa

Ronnie Mahesh Sherpa, born deaf and mute, also has mild autism. The Indian expatriate works as a sales executive.
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Sherpa also benefited from that opportunity and has been a sales executive at Splash in Ibn Battuta shopping center for five years. Born deaf and mute, the Indian expat who also has mild autism recently received a certificate of recognition.

His mother, Budhmaya Lama, also known as Diana Lama, said: “He sends his salary to help his father and uncle in India. It is encouraging to see how well his colleagues treat him. Ronnie has learned a lot on the job. He loves his work and the independence of him. “I can’t imagine this for Ronnie anywhere else in the world.”

Vikram is different. He does not work. The 31-year-old aspiring poet cannot speak due to severe apraxia, which also limits his ability to function independently. But he is cognitively aware and has a sharp mind.

Vikram Anil

Vikram Anil cannot speak due to severe apraxia, but has written more than 50 poems.
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

For decades, his family sought treatments that would allow him to communicate. “In 2019, we made a breakthrough when Vikram started using a spelling board and then an iPad. That allowed him to spell words. “He soon began forming complete sentences to communicate and participating in conversations, although motor tasks remained extremely difficult,” said Jayashree Anil, Vikram’s mother.

“I had absorbed incredible amounts of knowledge on various topics. She can now express her feelings in English. That brought out the poet in him; He wrote more than 50 poems over the years. These are written on his iPad in 60 to 90 minutes,” Jayashree added.

Apraxia Box - updated

Vikram completed a modern poetry course taught by the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. “Ironically, the first certificate he received is from an Ivy League institution,” his mother said, full of pride.

Disability was not an obstacle to the success of these five people. All it took was willpower, that’s why they are people of determination.


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