Like the previous 2 years, the APDSF Excellence Awards for the Field of Down syndrome was given in the areas of 

  1. Diligent work for the Cause of Down syndrome 
  2. Best Self Advocacy
  3. Best Research
Diligent Work for the Cause of Down syndrome:

This time the award was shared by 2 ladies – one from Indonesia and one from UAE who had done a lot for persons with Down syndrome in the region. The review Committee could not select one and decided that both these ladies had given their everything for the cause of Down syndrome and deserved the awards. The 2 ladies are – Ms. Aryanti Yacub and Ms. Nawal Nasser.

She is the Founder of ISDI (Indonesian Down Syndrome Society) which she did in 1999 of which she was the Chairperson till 2017. Under her leadership ISDI became full Foundation in 2007.She is currently the Chief of Advisory Board.

Milestones of ISDI under Aryanti's term of office 1999-curent Aryanti with her team has almost single handedly change the country's negative outlook towards people born with Down. Indonesia is a country of 17.000 islands and an estimated 300.000 people born with Down syndrome (by WHO).

ISDI regularly meets with parents and medical professions, educational professions, friends, families and anyone who cares and interested to share information as well as educate parents and families and to strengthen friendships within the community to make ISDI a one big family and to establish the sense of belonging which is aimed at raising self-esteem and respect for people born with Down syndrome and hoping to remove the negative stigma of Down syndrome being a dreadful disease. Under ISDI’s guidance: our children have achieved many prestigious accolades from the world of Arts. ISDI has befriended the media as an important part of raising awareness to make major changes for the lives of people born with Down syndrome. This being in many forms from live talk show on TVs to interview on radios and in magazines and newspapers to eradicate the negative stigma and raise the self-esteem of people born with Down syndrome.

ISDI has received numerous accolades and recognitions from both national and international government agencies for not only raising awareness but also for opening and establishing a Center for adult Down syndrome, which we named Center of Hope ISDI, to overcome and improve life skills very much needed to survive and being independent or less dependent. ISDI became a member of SOIna (Special Olympics Indonesia), DISORDA (Dinas Olah Raga dan Pemuda), a government organized sporting club under the Office of The Ministry of Sports. ISDI is also joining and becoming members of several of the national organizations for the disable/special needs like - FNKCM (Federasi Nasional untuk Kesejahteraan Cacat Mental). - PPCI (Persatuan Penyandang Cacat Indonesia). - HWDI (Himpunan Wanita Disabilitas Indonesia). In 2003, they sent two boys with Down syndrome to the 11th Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland. From then on there was no looking back as ISDI sent more athletes to compete in World Sporting events including Swimming and other major games.

ISDI has also become a place for internship for students from many universities from all over Indonesia. It is also a CSR partner for GE Elfun Volunteers in many community and humanitarian activities such as: - Distributing wheel chairs, assisting and distributing prosthetic limbs to those who needs them, clean the ocean drive, In 2006, ISDI became the first and only special needs school in the whole of Indonesia to stage a ceremonial graduation attended by the wife of the Vice President of Indonesia, Madame Mufida Yusuf Kalla. : : ISDI opened its first art class students of which have numerous achievements in local and international competitions and exhibitions, namely in London, England and currently in Mexico.

2007-current : As part of the raising awareness work, ISDI has an official website to showcase all the achievements and sending hopes across the whole of Indonesia and the world. The website address: www.isdi-online.org.
2008-current : The start of building a friendly relationship to NZDSA (New Zealand Down Syndrome Association).
2009 : ISDI sent Miss. Reviera Novita Standy to represent ISDI and Indonesia in the Australian Regional Special Olympics. She won a bronze medal.
2009-current : The start of building a friendly relationship to DSA (Down Syndrome Association) Singapore. Established Center of Hope ISDI. A place of training life skills for young adult born with Down syndrome to overcome their disabilities and thus improve their quality of life and therefore raise their self-esteem. : Introduction to programs to earn: baking making cookies, cooking food stuff to be sold, handicrafts to name a few.
2010 : ISDI first Down syndrome boy became the first golfer in Asia. For that we received The MURI award / recognition, it is an equivalent to The Guinness Book of Records. 8

ISDI played a role in the confirmation of 21st of March as the Date for the World Down Syndrome Day celebration effective for 2011 by sending a collective signed petition to each representative country that sits in The United Nation. Why 21st of March? 21 being the chromosome number and March being the number 3 or trisomy.

Ms. Aryanti Yacub sat in the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection special working group representing ISDI as an intellectual disability organization to assist in improving and amend the constitution for disability.

DSI (Down Syndrome International) bestowed ISDI the special trophy: “In recognition of outstanding achievements which have strengthened and enriched the lives of persons with Down Syndrome” in Indonesia. ISDI (Ikatan Sindroma Down Indonesia) is partnering with UN Global Compact Indonesia, an international and volunteer business community under The UN (United Nations) aiming at the ten (10) principles of: Human Rights, Man Power/Work Force, Environment and Anti-Corruption. UN Global Compact Indonesia also paying attention to the Disablity community.

Mrs. Nawal Nasser has been with the Emirates Downs Syndrome Association (EDSA) from 2005. Her hard work, has made a great impact and a positive impression on the people with Down syndrome, as a volunteer. A continuous tirelessly worker in the association from 2005 and before the accreditation from Ministry of Community Development in 2006 to the present. She starts as a Head of Family Support Committee to support the families by sharing her knowledge and experience to overcome the challenges and guiding the families during the critical period early childhood, in addition to that she was the Head of Skills development section helping in the planning for the appropriate programs for different age groups. She then continued as a Head of Finance Department, then as a Vice Chairperson, the role she plays till today. She is also the vice chairperson for World Down Congress Dubai 2020 and an active member in the National Organizing Committee. . The achievements during the period are incredible; such great job on developing the association; investing her time with ambitious and attainable set of goals for the team and the great attention to achieve every goal is amazing. Mrs. Nawal obtained one of the most prestigious awards on the Middle East level, Princess Haya Award for Special Education as “Distinguished Board Member” Emirates Down Syndrome Association 2014/2015, and “The Ideal Mother” Award from Ousha Bint Hussein Cultural Center 2014. Mrs. Nawal won the 2019 World Down Syndrome Day Awards, organized every 2 years by Down Syndrome Association (DSi) and presented at the World Down Syndrome Congress (WDSC), as a recognition of her incredible contribution and achievements Mrs. Nawal received Princess Haya Award for Special Education “Outstanding Family of Special Needs Child” 2018/2019. She participated in the first UAE Self-advocacy Summit organized by Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services under the slogan "One Step Closer" at The Act Hotel in Sharjah in cooperation with the Inclusion International MENA region from 26-30 / 9 / 2109, With the participation of 14 self-advocates, their facilitators and 9 mothers Currently, Mrs. Nawal is a member and playing an active role in running the Self advocacy program that the association is running in cooperation with Down Syndrome International (DSi). The program was started on Sept. and will continue until the WDSC Dubai 2020.

Mrs. Nawal also was rewarded as part of the honoring parents and outstanding students during the Parents Forum 2019/2020 conducted by Special Education Support Center- Ministry of Education, Dubai. Mrs. Nawal is a mother for 17 years old son with Down syndrome called Abdullah, she started with him from birth on an early intervention program, following up all health issues, working with him in the lack of specialized centers and therapies for persons with disabilities by that time.
-Abdullah is currently at grade 11 at regular school; he was one of the first group in integration process at mainstream school in Dubai, she built and shaped his personality on self- confidence, which carries a lot of determination, challenge and perseverance.
-Abdullah obtained Award for “Gifted Special Needs Student” from Ousha Bint Hussein Cultural Center 2014.
-He gained many medals in the sport competitions (Bocce, Bowling and Golf) and obtained 2 silver medals in 2018 Special Olympics Regional Games in Abu Dhabi with more than 1200 athletes from 33 countries competing in 16 different sports.
-Abdullah receives regular sport programs in horse riding, swimming and basketball, as well as art.
-He was one of the first group who received vocational Training program in Shangri- La hotel and Al Gurair Swiss Hotel in the evening time.
-Abdullah is not far from creativity and innovation, recently he enrolled into a training program in Robotics and he achieved level one and start level two, and he participated in robotics and artificial intelligence competition with main stream schools.
-Abdullah’s paintings sold in auctions and exhibitions, and he receives part of the income.
-Abdullah has participated in Self-Advocacy Training Program organized in collaboration with DSi, and he is one of self-advocates candidates for WDSC2020.
-He has participated in Self-Advocacy Summit organized by Sharjah Humanitarian City in collaboration with Inclusion International, Mena Region ( 26-30 September 2019)
-Abdullah’s global video shared with DSi from 1st March 2019


-Mrs. Nawal exerted remarkable efforts from the beginning and from a small group in 2005 under the name UAE Down Syndrome Support Group, to Emirates Down Syndrome Association, which obtained the official accreditation from Ministry on Community Development in 2006 as a humanitarian non-profit association to provide services for all ages and nationalities in the UAE.
-She is one of the founders and volunteers, who struggled a lot to establish the Association. She is a workaholic, with a full dedication to develop and improve the quality of services for better life for people with Down syndrome. Mrs. Nawal efficiently participating in the strategic planning, developing and monitoring the strategic plans for the association.
-She has continued implementing various qualitative initiatives and activities to achieve the strategic objectives of the association, which enables people with Down syndrome to integrate and participate actively in the society.Mrs. Nawal enjoy working in a team spirit in fruitful environment, she is comfortable in both leadership and player roles, she believes in different perspectives and the synergy between team members who can produce creative and productive out comes, and she has strong communication skills as well as problem-solving skills.She believes in sharing ideas, which reflects positively on the work. She has a great role in all awareness campaigns including schools in all the UAE, as well as the whole community.She is also involved in negotiations to have the own land by a donation and to build headquarter for the association.She is a strong advocate for the sake of people with Down syndrome, through reaching top authority and decision makers, meeting with Ministers of Education and Community Development to push forward educational integration and obtained obvious progress in the process integration, and obtaining the disabled card for people with Down syndrome. She exerts efforts in supporting families and sharing her rich experience and giving positive energy for the new families with new babies.She continuously brings financial support and donations to the association through friends, acquaintances and the family. She works with the team and their efforts resulted in establishing the Development Centre in the association which provides direct services to people with Down syndrome on Early Intervention services, Family Counselling, Special Education, Behavior Modification and Allied Services (physio, occupational and speech therapies). She is always willing to help in creating ideas to have the best technology devices and equipment to support people with Down syndrome in all domains.

Chaica is an inspiring, hard-working young lady whose great ideas, perseverance to follow through, dedication, and passion has lead her to make a name for herself in the world of inclusion. She has proven to have very high logic, strategic planning to overcome any challenges. With her beautiful energy, she aims to spread awareness on inclusion in any way possible

Chaica is a 23-year-old Emirati graduate of Sharjah English School and continued her studies in art at the International School of Arts and Sciences in Dubai. She is fully focused on spreading awareness on inclusion, with representative roles at top national and international organizations. She is the Emirates Down Syndrome Association Representative at Down Syndrome International, Ambassador of Inclusion MENA at Inclusion International, Ambassador of Inclusion at Manzil Center in Sharjah, and a UAE Special Olympics Athlete & Leader.

In Addition, she is fully focused on her martial arts, having attained a black belt from Shotokan Japanese Sports Center. She trains and competes in nine different martial arts with her main interests being Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo. Chaica has participated in several competitions internationally, and has won 2 championships in Egypt and Spain. Chaica also participated as a Torch Runner during the Law Enforcement Torch Run at the World Games, and gave a speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics that was held in Abu Dhabi, UAE. With hard work and dedication, Chaica aims to keep spreading inclusion in any way possible, and to represent what’s possible for people with down syndrome.

Prof Gaad when was the key figure behind establishing research related to Down Syndrome in the UAE. She cofounded the Emirates Down Syndrome Association (EDSA) and were the key player for about two years to making the first association that support people with down syndrome a research based association. Her research bid by far is considered the most genuine and effective research in the area of Down Syndrome. Prof Gaad is simply the associated name when it comes to down syndrome inclusive education research, an area that was ignored for years and considered as taboo. Professor Gaad was behind many research publications over the last 20 years that are related to the development and improving the quality of lives for people with the syndrome. She was the first ever to publish in a peer reviewed article on educating children with down syndrome in the UAE in the British owner of special education back in 2001 and before that she studied for 5 years for a PhD on Down Syndrome that was awarded from the university of East Anglia, UK back in 1999. She has been researching, writing, and supervising research students in the area of inclusive education for learners with Down Syndrome and other disabilities in the gulf since 1999.

Her published work is considered as key scholarly in this area. She has been working in the 1st research based middle eastern university for the last 15 years and for another 5 years before that in the National University (UAEU) at the department of special education. She was awarded the first ever funded research from the government to examine the education of learners with down syndrome back in 2001 and acknowledged that the published work in 2001. Her research work has been used as key guide for both government and non government agencies to examine and investigate the current status of people with down syndrome especially when it comes to the inclusion in regular classroom settings. She supervised many masters and doctoral dissertations in the field of education of children with intellectual disability some of which are on down syndrome support to the inclusion and development of people with down syndrome. She was awarded several research based rewards for her work with children with Down Syndrome including the most to distinguish research awarded by Princess Haya back in 2001 which was based on supporting people with down syndrome in collaboration with EDSA. Researching down syndrome was never an easy task in the gulf and in the Middle East due to social stigma and traditional issues however professor Gaad shed light on this area and worked tirelessly for over 20 years to publish findings in this area. Seven years ago she was contracted by Aljalila Foundation to work on a program called Taalouf (means harmony in Arabic) to support parents of children with disabilities and two main cohorts of the programme supported the parents of students with down syndrome. She published the research based work in an international peer reviewed journal (please see attached CV). The research was on supporting parents of children with down syndrome to manage the behavior of their children. That project gave her the opportunity to research and work with hundreds of parents of children with down syndrome and on a longer term history provide research based evidence to enhance the development and the quality of lives for people with down syndrome in the UAE and in the Mena region. As the cofounder of EDSA and head of the education committee for so many years and previously and executive director of the same, she made sure that the research goes arm in arm in arm with the development of all the programs. and she alongside her colleagues, won the bid to host the next down syndrome Congress in 2020 which is a first in the Middle East and that was supported by down syndrome international. Prof Gaad presented to research work on supporting people with down syndrome in international conferences to support the development.

A committed researcher and a well published scholar in the field, she started working on researching Down Syndrome while nobody ever had been before challenged by myths and taboos associated with Down Syndrome at that time.

  • When dissemination of knowledge across the world to shed light on the development of people with down syndrome in the United Arab Emirates and in the region 
  • Her research supported the inclusion of learners with Down Syndrome and guided 100s of scholars round the world 
  • Her masters and doctoral research with students is supporting the development of people with Down Syndrome in the region as her students come from many countries
  • She was the first ever scholar to be funded to examine the education of learners with Down Syndrome in the UAE 
  • Her funded research project by Emirates Foundation, which was called valuing differences that aimed to support inclusion of learners with down syndrome won best distinguished award for research and the work with 1000s of sample is considered a landmark in the research area.
  • her publication on role of teacher assistant to support the inclusion of learners with Down Syndrome in mainstream is well sighted among scholars.
  • She published on how to use research to empower parents of children with down syndrome in international peer reviewed journals 
  • Bidding and wining research grants from the government especially in areas like sexual abuse etc is considered significant. 
  • Using the research- evidence data to support the development of people with down syndrome is credited to Prof Gaad. 
  • She appears in national and international TV and is a very familiar face on the national social media and papers to advocate for eradicating social stigma against people with down syndrome and using research finding as a tool for that. 
  • Professor Gaad is well respected researcher who is known for her advocacy that is based on genuine research. A researcher who is based in one of the top research based universities in the region