This paper reports the findings of a preliminary survey carried out in an Omani community to assess the prevalence of handicap amongst children, and its impact on the family. The sample comprised of 492 children less than 15 years of age. The disabilities identified related to chromosomal abnormality, genetic, perinatal, and infectious factors. The presence of mental retardation, with associated social taboos, confounds the problem in Oman. The study showed that, although some handicapped children may be accepted within the family, there was a sense of shame and rejection vis-à-vis the community. The prevalence of 2 per cent is only the tip of the iceberg. The study defines the sociocultural aspects of the Omani society which are conducive to the perpetuation of this important health and social problem.
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