The world celebrates Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April every year. This international awareness day brings communities together to appreciate the people championing life even with autism. Autism Awareness Day in Dubai and the rest of the world is dedicated to foster acceptance of the autistic population for a stronger and more balanced community.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1 in every 160 children worldwide falls within the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A 2017 report published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Neonatal Care revealed that autism affects 1 in every 146 births in Dubai. This number, although not as high as in countries like the US (1 in 68), is still a concern.
Autism is a developmental disorder that lasts a lifetime. People living with autism develop unique ways of interacting with those around them. They feel, see, and hear the world differently than we do. Autism is not a disease and autistic people cannot be ‘cured’ in the traditional sense of the word. While some can live independently, others may require lifelong support and care.
Autism affects people in different ways. The Autism Spectrum Disorder, as the name suggests is a spectrum disability, which means no two autistic people will have the same disabilities. This spectrum is denoted by the rainbow palette which defines the autism awareness colours. The disability spectrum spans from simple learning disabilities to greater mental health problems. This, however, does not mean that people with autism cannot develop or learn. Their process may be slower than ours, but with the right support, they can lead a meaningful life.
The neurodevelopmental disorder can lead to a variety of high and low functioning symptoms. Some common ones include:
- Repetitive behaviour
- Communication issues
- Lack of social skills
- Problems with speech development
- Delayed responsiveness
Sometimes, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder also develop other communicable and non-communicable conditions such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and even epilepsy.
Autism Awareness Day in Dubai
People with autism define a new normal, something that is unique. They deal with a myriad of everyday struggles as they journey through life and a significant challenge they face is communication. What might be normal for them, may not resonate with us. The Dubai government has taken the lead in recognising and celebrating the uniqueness of these individuals, as part of the many initiatives aimed at creating a fostering environment for People of Determination.
They are different, yes; but mostly, autistic people are looking for acceptance, inclusivity and a chance to be part of a greater community. A significant milestone was accomplished back in 2017 with the approval of the Dubai Disability Strategy. The strategy mapped down the measures required to empower the determined people, those living with autism, and weave them into the fabric of the multicultural society. The Dubai Disability Strategy was put forth to ensure full rights and reduced discrimination for the People of Determination.
Specifically addressing the Autism Awareness Day, the Dubai Government took directed measures for improving the quality and availability of social care, education and integrated health for autistic people. To accomplish that, the government has joined hands with various hospitals, schools, and non-profit organisations like the Dubai Autism Centre to help autistic people assimilate better into society. The objective is to promote their inclusion and participation in the community, which will help Dubai reach its ultimate goal of becoming a disability-friendly city by 2021.
This vision also aligns with the UAE’s annual theme for 2019 – The Year of Tolerance, whereby the country strives towards a tolerant, cohesive, mutually supportive and inclusive society.
Autism Centres in Dubai
There are a number of schools, institutes and autism centres in Dubai with trained professionals equipped to deal with the requirements of children under the spectrum. Parents can rest assured that their children with special needs are well looked after in such institutes. Here is a list of the well-known autism schools in Dubai:
- Dubai Autism Centre
- Tender Hearts Arena
- Reach Out Dubai
- Dubai Centre for Special Needs
- Special Needs Future Development Centre
- Child Learning and Enrichment Medical Centre
- Child Early Intervention Medical Centre
- Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs
- Maharat Learning Centre
In addition to this, most of the well-known schools in Dubai also have SEN programmes to cater to students with special needs.
Autism Awareness Initiatives in Dubai
While the government is doing its part to raise autism awareness among the masses, several local and international initiatives are sprouting up across Dubai to bolster these efforts. For the 2019 Autism Awareness Day in Dubai, many initiatives are organised by the local communities.
Autism Awareness Ride
If you’ve got a bike and want to make your Friday morning useful, saddle up and join Berets MC for the Autism Awareness Ride. The Dubai-based bike club has organised the event to express solidarity with families dealing with autism. The event starts at 10:00 am from the Bikers House Restaurant, but you need to be at the venue at 09:00 am to register yourself.
- Location: Dubai Investment Park
- Date: Friday, March 29, 2019
- Timings: 10:00 am to 11:00 am
The Maharat Autism Carnival
The Maharat Learning Centre in collaboration with Child Learning and Enrichment Medical Centre and Child Early Intervention Medical Centre is hosting an autism awareness carnival for families. The community event will offer a day full of music, activities, entertainment, games and fun. Head over to the Dubai Festival City to enjoy the day with your family and show support for people with autism.
- Location: Marsa Plaza Beach, Dubai Festival City
- Date: Tuesday, April 2, 2019
- Timings: 10:00 am to 09:00 pm
Playmo Celebrates World Autism Awareness Day 2019
Bring your children for a fun-filled day of play, interaction and fun at Playmo’s Autism Awareness Day celebrations. This is a unique chance to allow your children to mingle with and befriend those living with autism, build new friendships and foster greater harmony among children. Free passes are available.
- Location: Head Start Speech Therapy Centre, Mirdif 35
- Ages: 2 to 12 years
- Date: Wednesday, April 3, 2019
- Timings: 11:00 am to 02:00 pm
The Light It Up Blue Campaign
Every year, in solidarity with the global autism community, Dubai takes part in the ‘Light It Up Blue’ campaign to mark Autism Awareness Day. The US-based organisation Autism Speaks started the campaign. In 2018, Dubai was one of the 142 countries that took part in the campaign by lighting up iconic buildings/structures across the globe with blue light. Last year, the Dubai Frame was lit up blue. This year, we are yet to see, which building in Dubai becomes a part of Light It Up Blue.
Besides these events and initiatives, schools and learning centres across the city, such as the Cambridge International School have also organised autism awareness programmes and carnivals.
Autism Support Dubai
If you’re looking for autism support programmes in Dubai, these places will cover all avenues by helping you and your autistic child cope with their condition in the best possible ways.
Autism Rocks Support Centre
- Location: Dubai Healthcare City, Building 27, Block A, 5th Floor, Unit 502
- Contact: +971-4-442-7012
Autism Trust Foundation
- Location: Dubai Silicon Oasis
- Contact: +971-4-333-3933
Dubai Autism Center
- Location: Opposite National Charity School, 20 B St. Garhoud
- Contact: +971-4-398-6862
- Location: Dubai Healthcare City, Al Razi Building 64, Block A, Unit 5002/3
- Contact: +971-4-363-5433
It is important to realise that there is no autism treatment available, simply because it’s not a disease. The only valuable ‘treatment’ is acceptance, kindness, and generosity. It is always better to reach out to families coping with autism and support them while allowing the autistic child/person to integrate into normalcy.
Are you part of any Autism Awareness or support groups in Dubai? Let us know on social@Bayut.com if we have missed out on any specific events and initiatives for autism awareness in Dubai. Till then, keep following MyBayut for the latest updates on Dubai and the rest of the UAE.