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UAE shines in blue on World Autism Awareness Day.. to open two autism rehabilitation units by end of 2018

Over 40 key buildings of the UAE shined in blue on the World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) on April 2 to draw attention on the importance of developing programs and services to people suffering from Autism, a top official at the Ministry of Community Development said.

The Center of People of Determination in Dibba Al-Fujairah launched blue balloons to mark this important event.

Moreover, a photography contest was launched for the best photo of a blue-lit building,  Director of the Rehabilitation and Care Department of the People of Determination at the Ministry of Community Development (MOCD) Wafaa Hamad Bin Suliman said.

Also, a collection of social stories on autism will be issued within this context to highlight means of developing skills and behavior of autistic children, she said.

The UAE also announced plans to open two rehabilitation units for rehabilitating people suffering autism disorder in Dibba Al-Fujairah by the end of 2018, she added.

She noted that the ministry plans to expand autism rehabilitation and early intervention centers in Ajman and Al-Fujairah.

According to recent statistics,  the number of people suffering autism disorder autistic people in the UAE stood at 2000 by the end of March 2018, she said.

She noted that 1,338 out of the total number joined rehabilitation centers and the rest are either old people or already finished their rehabilitation sessions and joined jobs within the framework of social integration programs.

Being keen to help autistic people,  the MOCD has so far issued about 17,000 social support cards for people with determination (special needs) across the country, 1,942 of which are for people with autism disorder, 375 of whom are women and girls, Minister of Community Development Hessa Essa Buhumaid said.

She said "Although the number of women and girls with autism is relatively less than men and boys, we make sure to provide services that cater for the needs of both of them through our healthcare and rehabilitation facilities and early intervention centers for people with determination located across the Emirates."

She added "We have also issued a license for the Emirates Autism Society, EAS, that organizes seminars, sessions and activities that help raise awareness among the public and families with autistic people with autism."

Buhumaid said that World Autism Awareness Day 2018 (WAAD) represents an excellent opportunity for all the public federal and local bodies as well as private entities working in this area to join hands to offer better services for people with autism, particularly women and girls.

"We need to pay more attention to women and girls who have autism because of the peculiar social and cultural circumstances in which they are living," Buhumaid said.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is observing the WAAD this year with the theme, "Empowering Women and Girls with Autism" to focus on the importance of empowering women and girls with autism and involving them and their representative organizations in policy and decision-making to address these challenges within the context of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The minister also called for, "improving the practices in place for integrating this social segment in the community and their surrounding environment through training, rehabilitation and other social activities aimed at improving their prospects".

"We are marking this year's version of the global event with the theme, "Let's be United for Fighting Autism," to highlight the need to boost efforts exerted by the public and private sectors and the society at large to support the autistic people and their families.

The WAAD is being recognized by Zayed Higher Organization – Abu Dhabi Autism Center under the slogan “ Together we make Difference”.

An Autism Forum will be held at the National Center for Documentation and Research on April 25.

Designated by the United Nations on April 2 of every year, WAAD encourages efforts to raise awareness of children with autism and bring attention to this often-misunderstood neurological disorder. International organizations and institutions are organizing fundraising and awareness-building events to promote understanding and research on autism.

According to autismspeaks.org, Autism is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed because there are no medical tests to identify it. Instead, specially trained physicians and psychologists conduct behavioral evaluations. Even if a child exhibits symptoms, doctors unfamiliar with the disorder can dismiss unusual behaviors and delay diagnosis and treatments, so awareness is particularly important for parents, educators and medical professionals alike.  In addition, identifying autism and autism spectrum disorder can be difficult because each autistic individual is unique. Autism is manifest, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.


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