x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Dubai urged to step up for autism awareness

Children with autism will walk alongside their parents on April 30 to raise awareness about the disorder.

DUBAI // Organisers of a walk to mark Autism Awareness Month have recruited hundreds of children from Dubai schools and special needs centres to join them, but are calling on the wider community to walk a mile with them and get behind the project.

The Walk Now for Autism 2011 event, which will take place in Zabeel Park on April 30, has been organised by Dubai Healthcare City in collaboration with Child Early Intervention Medical Centre and two autism support groups, Genesis and Saathi.

"We would like to see the whole community participating," said Dr Hibah Shata, the managing director and co-founder of Child Early Intervention Medical Centre, which provides therapy for children with autism-related disorders. "Autism needs attention."

The event was previewed and promoted at a gala dinner Sunday at Dubai Festival City, attended by a number of families of children with autism spectrum disorders.

The walk will offer a wide range of activities for children, including bouncing castles, clowns, a magic show, face painting and games.

"The walk is one of our community projects to help raise awareness and provide better acceptance to children effected with autism," said Dr Shata.

"The support we have received from special needs centres in Dubai and several private and government institutions is overwhelming."

Dr Ayesha Abdullah, the managing director of the sciences cluster at Tecom Investments, told the audience at Sunday's gala that the diagnoses of autism had been on the rise.

"Today in the Gulf, we see an alarming rate of one to every 146 children. But there is a lot of misconception … education needs to take place in this part of the world about autism and the ability of children to reach their potential," said Dr Abdullah.

Often, she said, people did not want to talk about disorders or diseases, but this was an opportunity for the community to put autism at the forefront.

"We invite people's participation in large numbers to ensure the initiative is a resounding success. It will also give them the opportunity to help autistic children feel a part of mainstream society."