Organized by the Emirates Autism Center (EAC) and in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the 14th Annual Autism Awareness Week kicks off today under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, from 26 – 28 April 2021.
On this occasion, Dr. Amal Jalal Sabri, Managing Director of the EAC, said that the Autism Awareness Week 2021 aims at instilling the concept of acceptance through the new name of the international autism celebration month as the Autism Acceptance Month. This comes along a campaign to shed light on the concept of Neurodiversity in people with autism spectrum and respecting the difference in their methods of dealing with the information away from calling them unrealistic names and which allows people with autism spectrum and their families to live a complete and quality lifestyle through communication and acceptance.
Dr. Sabri pointed to the initiative taken by the Emirates Telecommunication Company to put in place a new online browsing technique for people with autism spectrum that helps them obtain the information in a way that suites their neurodiversity and provides them with internet safety.
She added that the EAC also took an initiative in the same context by changing the logo of the center from the blue color into a new logo that reflects the acceptance of difference and neurodiversity of the people with autism spectrum. The new logo contains the purple color and conveys three concepts:
First: Autism is an example of neurodiversity, which is a paradigm that shows that diversity in the human brain is a normal aspect and a rich side of the human experiment. The logo shows the image of a brain and the colors reflect the neurodiversity, which is a well-known symbol across the globe.
Second: The importance of communicating and listening to voices of the people with autism spectrum, which means listening to their opinions and desires when taking any decisions related to them. This aspect is being shown in the logo by the sign next to the letter (A), an acronym for Autism. This signifies each of “communication” like the wifi communication in the logo, and the “voices”, which are the voices of the people with autism spectrum.
Third: Autism is a spectrum, which means that people with autism differ greatly in their social and knowledge capabilities. This becomes clear in the logo by using a spectrum (light to dark colors) in the wifi symbol within the logo.
Abu Dhabi Chamber Support
For his part, His Excellency Mohamed Helal Al Mheiri, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that for over 14 years, the Abu Dhabi Chamber has been committed to cooperating with the EAC by supporting and sponsoring the Autism Awareness Week that is being held annually in April in parallel with the World Autism Awareness Month.
“The Chamber’s support stems from its belief in spreading the spirit of participation in the community, encouraging national institutions to shed light on the autism spectrum and the importance of supporting the specialized centers that are concerned with this group of people of determination,” he said.
Programs and Activities
In regard to the 14th Autism Awareness Week, Dr. Sabri said that the week is made into two halves:
The first is organizing the Emirates Physical Fitness Championship for People of Determination on Tuesday, 27 April 2021, which will, for the first time, see the participation of five countries namely the UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Oman and Syria. More than 500 people of determination players from 60 schools that have people of determination integrated into their classes are joining the championship.
The activities of the Autism Awareness Week will conclude in 28 April, which will include a tour inside all the departments of EAC, during which students with autism spectrum will perform some activities for the visitors.
The Autism Awareness Week aims at raising social awareness and accepting the people with autism spectrum as well as opening up new doors of cooperation for corporations and individuals to share experiences in the field of autism spectrum and helping public and private corporations to adopt the concepts of social responsibility towards this group, which are in need for support and integration.
The awareness campaign also aims at correcting the wrong concepts about people of autism spectrum.
Thanks and Appreciation
Dr. Sabri expressed her thanks and appreciation to His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, for sponsoring the Autism Awareness Week for 14 consecutive years. “His kind patronage of the 14th Autism Awareness Week gave us the opportunity to shed light on the volume of the issue and take a look at the exerted efforts in enhancing the capabilities of people with autism spectrum and help them reach the highest levels of independency and to be active members in the social fabric,” she said.
The Managing Director extended her thanks and appreciation to the Abu Dhabi Chamber for sponsoring the activities of the event for 14 years and for supporting the EAC in organizing it, drawing the best of examples in spreading the concept of social responsibility, which had a direct impact in organizing this humanitarian event over a period of 14 years.
She also extended her thanks and appreciation to Dolphin Energy, Fantasia Ballet Center, University of Dubai and the General International Company for supporting the center and in helping it take all the necessary precautionary measures during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the safety of students. She also thanked the different media outlets in the UAE for playing a pivotal role in enlightening the community and shedding light on the different aspects of the Autism Awareness Week.
De. Sabri highlighted the accomplishments of the EAC since the beginning of the pandemic, pointing out that despite the lockdown imposed by governments across the globe in an attempt to contain the pandemic including staying at home orders in March 2020, which led to the loss of a network of service providers; the center did not stop in performing its mission. “The EAC supported its students and their families by training the parents, each according to the state of their child, on how to perform the content of the programs with their children through remote communication applications.
The Center also organized sport competitions between the students to stimulate their energy. Such events gave pleasure to their parents for seeing their children remotely.
The center also documented the opinions of parents on the remote education services during the pandemic, in which many parents cooperated with the center’s specialist after they felt their children progressing while learning remotely and have become aware of the programs their children are having inside the center.
The EAC also took part in the Special Olympics – UAE during the pandemic, during which sport competitions were held amongst the students of the centers in the UAE and saw the coaches of the EAC cooperate with the coaches of the Special Olympics to make the event a success.
The EAC also extended a helping hand for all non-public centers in the country to help them with their remote education through workshops that helped all of such centers carry on providing the same services after they were completely suspended.
The Center also took part in the awareness and technical virtual workshops of the Summer Family Festival Initiative organized by Abu Dhabi Municipality, in which the targeted audience were people of determination and their parents.
Since the beginning of the academic year 2020, the center participated in many events including the Special Olympics – UAE with Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, and the Arabs Championship in Egypt.
Numbers and Statistics
It is worth noting that there are 50 students attending the EAC, 50% of which are Emirati nationals. 42 percent of the students of the centers are integrated in schools and universities across the UAE.
The World Health Organization said in its latest editions on 2 April 2021 that the ratio of autism spectrum is 1:160 children worldwide and that the males to females ration is 1:4, which appears in early childhood with children three years of age and less. It also said that 70 percent of cases are accompanied with epilepsy, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.