Abu Dhabi: Early intervention is the key to making autism more manageable in children and more awareness needs to be created about the disorder, an autism expert said in the capital on Wednesday.
Nipa Bhuptani, head of the autism department at the Future Centre for Speical Needs, told Gulf News that greater awareness would also ensure society accepts children with autism and provides them with adequate support.
"In the UAE, where there is a huge temporary population, it is important to focus on education and awareness. Only then will people understand that a normal-looking child who is supposedly misbehaving or throwing a tantrum has a condition, and be able to offer support," she said.
While details about the exact incidence of autism in the UAE were not available, it is known that one in 110 children worldwide has the neurological developmental disorder, and the figure is on the rise. In the Future Centre for Special Needs, 27 out of the 155 enrolled children have formally been diagnosed with autism.
The condition is being highlighted this month as part of the International Autism Awareness month, following on from the World Autism Awareness Day, which has been celebrated on April 2 since 2008.
Bhuptani said such initiatives were also necessary because a family with an autistic member also undergoes immense stress.
"Autism is usually diagnosed at the age of three, and children with the condition have difficulties in social interaction, language and communication. They are also very inflexible with their behaviour and routines, and tend to be rigid," she explained.
"Because the cause and cure are not known, the only way to help children with the condition is to enable them to integrate into society better. With proper support and education, some children can even be integrated into normal schools and lead relatively normal lives," she added.
The Future Centre for Special Needs - along with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, Abu Dhabi Police and the Municipality of Abu Dhabi City - is organising on Thursday the third annual "walkathon" to create awareness about the condition. It is set to begin at 6:30pm on the Abu Dhabi Corniche, and is expected to be led by Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE's Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
- 3rd Autism Awareness Walkathon
- Where: Abu Dhabi Corniche, Beach Entrance 1 (At the end of Spinney's street)
- Registration: 5:30 PM
- Walk begins: 6:30 PM
- 1 kilometre long walk, with candle-lights