Dubai: The Dubai Autism Centre launched its 17th annual autism awareness campaign today, on World Autism Awareness Day, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. Every year, April 2 is observed as the World Autism Awareness Day as per the unanimous declaration by the United Nations General Assembly.
The Dubai Autism Centre has organised this annual campaign since 2006, launching the month-long initiative on the World Autism Awareness Day every year. The annual initiative is aimed at raising awareness about autism and promoting inclusion of individuals with autism in society. It includes a range of activities such as free diagnosis, workshops, seminars, and events, as well as the lighting up of several landmarks in Dubai in blue to show support for the cause.
The campaign also seeks to showcase the creative skills of children with autism through art exhibitions and auctions, with the proceeds going towards supporting the services provided to individuals with autism by the Dubai Autism Centre.
Hisham Abdullah Al Qassim, Chairman of Dubai Autism Centre, expressed his gratitude to the Dubai Crown Prince for his patronage of the annual autism awareness campaign. “We would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for supporting the annual autism awareness campaign. His patronage highlights the leadership’s commitment to empowering people of determination and ensuring their rights as an integral part of the UAE community,” Al Qassim said.
Al Qassim also expressed his appreciation for the partnership between the government and private sectors in supporting the campaign, highlighting the contributions of strategic partners such as Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and Wasl Asset Management Group, as well as Al Ansari Exchange, the exclusive partner for the free assessment initiative. He emphasised the importance of collaborative efforts in achieving the goals of the National Policy for Empowering People of Determination.
Empowering people of determination
Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), said: “DEWA is committed to supporting national efforts that contribute to the inclusion and empowerment of people of determination in society, in line with the National Policy for Empowering People of Determination. This policy was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with the aim of creating an inclusive society that ensures empowerment and a decent life for people of determination and their families.”
Al Tayer added: “DEWA’s support for the annual autism awareness campaign launched by Dubai Autism Centre is in line with the “My Community... a City for Everyone” initiative launched by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. This initiative aims to transform Dubai into a city that is friendly for people of determination. We are pleased to support the campaign, which strengthens the UAE’s position as a leading country in integrating people of determination into society, and providing them with a flexible environment to channel their energies and prove their capabilities while achieving happiness,” he said.
Free diagnosis initiative
On this occasion, Al Ansari Exchange announced its support for the free diagnosis initiative for 100 Emirati children, which was launched last year. The company has provided Dh500,000 to support the initiative and transform it into an annual feature. This will give Emirati families more opportunities for early detection of autism and ensure that their children receive the necessary intervention.
The Free Comprehensive Assessment Initiative provides free annual assessment sessions for 100 Emirati children for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The initiative also includes a pre-screening campaign of students enrolled in kindergartens, first and second grades.
ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects social interaction, communication, and behaviour. It is typically diagnosed in early childhood and can have a lifelong impact on an individual. Recent studies suggest that ASD affects around 1 in 44 children, causing significant challenges in their daily lives.
‘My Community... a City for Everyone’
Rashid Ali Al Ansari, CEO of Al Ansari Exchange, said: “We are pleased to announce our support for the Dubai Autism Center as part of this national initiative. This initiative was launched to implement the directives of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Al Ansari remains committed to serving the development goals of Dubai and helping all components of society to contribute to the country’s development. Through well-studied plans and strategies, we remain committed to achieving the leadership’s vision of empowering people of determination and integrating them in society, in line with best international and local practices and standards.”
Mohammed Al Emadi, Director General of the Dubai Autism Centre, said: “The 17th annual autism awareness campaign aims to emphasise the significance of creating an autism-friendly community that facilitates accessibility to the services offered by public and private institutions. This is in accordance with Decree No. (26) of 2021, which stresses the role of community awareness, and in line with the “My Community... a City for Everyone” initiative. The campaign aims to establish a culture of inclusion among all members of society and promote Dubai’s transformation into a city that is friendly for people of determination.”
Al Emadi stressed that since its establishment, the Dubai Autism Centre has sought to enhance community awareness of autism, not only by raising awareness of its symptoms but also by introducing individuals and institutions to the requirements for appropriate dealing with people with autism. To achieve this, the centre has launched many campaigns and awareness initiatives, the most prominent of which is the annual autism awareness campaign.
The campaign has been promoted through various media platforms, including cinema and digital screens, with over 1,600 screens located in ENOC gas stations, Du stores, Union Coops, Géant and Aswaaq supermarkets, shopping centres, and other public spots throughout the UAE. The aim is to educate society about the importance of accepting and empowering individuals with autism and integrating them into society.
In addition to DEWA, Wasl Asset Management Group, and Al Ansari Exchange, Al Emadi praised the efforts of other leading partners and supporters of the campaign. He extended his special thanks to Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), Dubai Airports, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, and the Department of Economy and Tourism in Dubai.
The Director General of the Dubai Autism Centre also expressed appreciation for the contributions of the campaign’s other supporters, which included Dubai Holding, Dubai Investments, Du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company), Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai Duty Free, Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, and Azizi Developments.
He also extended his gratitude to the campaign’s media and digital partners, particularly the Government of Dubai Media Office, as well as Zee Entertainment, Vox Cinemas, Novo Cinemas, Roxy Cinemas, Hypermedia Advertising, ITP Media Group, and Hills Advertising.
Al Emadi also expressed his gratitude to those who helped spread the digital campaign messages through internal screens, with prominent contributors including Al Jalila Foundation, Union Coop, GMG Group, Meraas, The Green Planet, Global Village, Jumeirah Group, Hilton, Crowne Plaza, Ski Dubai, LOAMS (DAMAC’s facility management arm), The Goofy Cow Burger, and Moishi Restaurants.
As part of the campaign, art workshops will be held to showcase the creative skills of children with autism. These workshops will be organised by the Dubai Autism Center in collaboration with Zee Arts Community, a group of fine artists from around the world who will share their own drawing tools with the centre’s students. The aim is to showcase the paintings of the students in a charitable auction, with the proceeds going towards supporting the services provided to children with autism.
The campaign will also feature a series of awareness webinars in schools and public institutions to increase public knowledge and promote a better understanding of the different challenges faced by individuals with autism, emphasising the importance of community support and understanding in achieving inclusion.
Landmarks light up in blue
On World Autism Awareness Day, landmarks across the world are illuminated in blue to honour the day. As part of the 17th annual autism awareness campaign, a number of government and private landmarks in Dubai will light up in blue, including the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Dubai Frame, Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, Tolerance Bridge, Dubai Water Canal Waterfall, Global Village, and Ain Dubai.
Founded by a decree of the Ruler of Dubai in 2001, Dubai Autism Centre is a non-profit organisation that aims to provide specialised services for children with autism and support for their families and caregivers. Its financial resources are derived from subsidies, donations, and charitable endowments.
This year, the Dubai Autism Centre has enrolled 150 students in both school and clinic programmes. The centre, in its fully-equipped facility, offers specialised services for children with autism, including 34 classrooms, 22 motor therapy clinics, 18 speech therapy clinics, 3 rooms for sensory therapy, and a range of laboratories and medical clinics designed according to the latest international standards. The centre is committed to providing an appropriate educational environment for children with autism and offers support for their families and caregivers.