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'Be active and try everything'.

Dubai Eoin Gibson, 22, has a very busy diary. A waiter with the Al Abela catering service at Dubai Women's College, he is also a die-hard sports enthusiast - his running, cycling, indoor soccer, paddle tennis, swimming and marshalling at a host of events ensures he has back-to-back appointments to keep.

A high-functioning adult with Down Syndrome, Eoin is an inspiration. "I am always happy with life," said the Australian with a simple message to those in his condition: "Be active and try everything."

It's a message he will reinforce at a walk at Dubai's Safa Park on March 22 when around 1,000 residents will gather to mark World Down Syndrome Day organised by the All 4 Down Syndrome support group.

Eoin's mother Catherine said when he was born her paediatrician told her to take him home and treat him like any other child.

"And I did just that," she said with justifiable pride. "We knew that if we looked at Down Syndrome as a disability, we would immediately build a wall. We were lucky Eoin could get early intervention and we could push him to do things as there were no hard complaints."

Having studied at the Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre, Eoin fondly recollected how Roy Nasr, the Dubai-based triathlete who was killed in a road accident, gave him his first job at Abela.

"He was very kind and so are all the other staff at Abela. I have been working with them for four years at Dubai Women's College where my father teaches. I do the tables, clear trays, plates and cutlery. I am also learning how to count money and bake a chocolate cake," he said. Eoin is among the lucky few adults with Down Syndrome who get paid for their services.

Eoin said when he's not working, he's invariably at a sport. "On Tuesdays and Saturdays, I run with the Dubai Road Runners. On Saturdays, I play indoor soccer with special needs children. I also swim whenever I can and I am trying out paddle tennis."

A regular at the city's sports events, he said he has swum around the Burj Al Arab for charity for six years; took part in the Color Run at Dubai Autodrome, and has done the 10K run at Dubai Marathon, among other feats.

Catherine said Dubai's kind-heartedness knows no bounds and she would love to see the scope of inclusion being widened. "Inclusion is a fashionable word but it generally holds good only to a certain age. A lot of schools say they are inclusive but very few are at the secondary level. It is good if I am proved wrong."

She also hoped that the high cost of special education would be addressed.

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Publication:XPRESS (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Mar 20, 2014
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