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Dubai: The Dubai Autism Centre on Wednesday announced that its 15th annual autism awareness campaign will be launched on April 2 on the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day.

It will be held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai.

The month-long campaign aims to increase public understanding of autism, highlight the plight of families affected by autism, as well as promote community acceptance of children with the condition. The annual drive, which will feature various events and activities, is being supported by the public and private sectors and members of the community.

Free consultation

On this occasion, the Dubai Autism Centre also announced free consultation sessions for children suspected of having autism. Appointments can be booked through the centre throughout April 2021.

Awareness webinars

The campaign will feature several awareness webinars organised in schools and public departments to sensitise people about the importance of social inclusion and the challenges facing individuals with autism.

Blue lighting

Landmarks around the globe will light up in blue to mark World Autism Awareness Day. As has been the practice every year, a number of government and private institutions in Dubai will participate in the campaign by lighting up their buildings in blue. Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Dubai Frame, Tolerance Bridge, Dubai Water Canal Waterfall and Global Village are among the landmarks that will also glow blue to observe the occasion.

Founded by a decree of the Ruler of Dubai in 2001, Dubai Autism Centre is a non-profit organisation that provides specialised services for children with autism and support for their families and caregivers. The centre obtains financial support through subsidies, donations and charitable endowments.

Creating understanding

Mohammed Al Emadi

Mohammed Al Emadi, Director-General and Board Member, Dubai Autism Centre, said: “In line with our leadership’s vision to transform Dubai into a friendly city for people of determination, the Dubai Autism Centre will kick off the campaign to highlight the importance of community support and their positive perception towards individuals with autism. The initiative seeks to promote acceptance of children with autism and create a better understanding of the characteristics of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which usually affects three primary areas: speech and communication, social interaction and behaviour.”

April Autism Campaign Ad 2021-1617204856935

Screens across UAE

Al Emadi said understanding the difficulties autistic children face is key to improving their lives and minimising the challenges their families undergo. This year, the campaign is being heavily promoted through the media and various digital platforms, he added, noting that more than 2,500 screens have been dedicated to display the campaign advertisement in the UAE.

Community response

Al Emadi praised the community’s response to the campaign and the support it drew from individuals, government entities and private companies. He also thanked the campaign’s partners and sponsors.

Social programmes

Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer

Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer, MD and CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), said: “As a socially responsible government organisation, DEWA is working to achieve the vision of the wise leadership to include and empower people of determination in society. DEWA is keen to support the annual autism awareness campaign to sustain efforts aimed at increasing social awareness about autism.”

From 2015 to 2020, DEWA has implemented 58 social programmes and initiatives to support the inclusion and empowerment of people of determination, while the community’s happiness over DEWA’s role in supporting people of determination reached 94 per cent in 2020, Al Tayer added.

Need for research

Khalid Al Malik

Khalid Al Malik, Managing Director of Dubai Holding, said: “There is still an urgent need globally for more research on children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder and ways in which they can be supported to reach their full potential. We are committed to supporting the community’s health and well-being and believe it is of vital importance to continue efforts to spread awareness, promote acceptance and ignite change to achieve social inclusion.”

He added: “As part of our efforts to support this mission, we will be lighting up many communities and destinations belonging to Dubai Holding and hosting a range of engagement activities. Additionally, we will work to raise awareness among the community and promoting an understanding on the unique perspectives of those living with ASD.”

Parents’ hesitation

Mona Ibrahim, community outreach manager at Dubai Autism Centre, said: “Despite an increasing awareness of the autism spectrum disorder, many parents are hesitant to request an early diagnosis for their children. This is why it is important to launch initiatives that both raise awareness about the need for timely diagnosis and facilitate comprehensive care for children with autism.”

About the centre

In 2017, the Dubai Autism Centre moved to its new headquarters in Al Garhoud. Located on an area of 90,000 square feet, the building has a total built-up area of 166,000 square feet. With its expanded headquarters, the centre was able to increase its capacity from 54 to 180 children. The building, fully equipped for providing care to people with autism, contains 34 classrooms, 22 motor therapy clinics, 18 speech and speech therapy clinics and three rooms dedicated for sensory therapy. The Center also has a number of laboratories, medical clinics and other facilities, built according to the highest international standards to provide a supportive environment for children with autism.

What is ASD?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. ASD can cause significant social, communication, and behavioural challenges. According to recent studies, one in 54 children is affected by ASD.