Last afternoon, over 3000 plus people from Dubai and the neighboring Emirates stepped out in an overwhelming show of support for people with autism and different needs. Zabeel Park, the venue for the walk and the fun fair that followed later in the evening, was overflowing with people enthusiastically waiting to show their support. Over the last few years, ‘Walk Now For Autism’ and other such campaigns have met with a thunderous response from the residents of the Emirates.
I guess as the awareness grows, the interest and intrinsic motivation to support people and embrace their different needs has seen tremendous growth too. I must confess that prior to the walk I didn’t know too much about autism but as I sat down and did some reading this afternoon my eyes were opened to some startling as well as some heartwarming facts. This is what I found… (In a nutshell of course)
- Autism is an incurable disorder.
- Children with autism have a wide range of enhanced academic skills; therefore, academic support must be individualized to meet their needs.
- Autistic children are oversensitive to noise and pain.
- The number of cases of Autism reported over the years has seen a significant rise. 1 out of 115 children are affected by this disorder.
- Early intervention can lead to academic success and personal and social growth.
- Very often, children with autism engage in repetitive activities and body movements, such as rocking, pacing, or repetitive hand movements.
- With the right guidance and support it is possible for parents, teachers and relatives to cope better with children and their needs. Most importantly autistic people should not be stigmatized for their condition. People with autism who have been treated correctly (medically and socially of course) have been seen to make significant contributions to society over periods of time.
Walk Now For Autism Is a powerful tool to raise awareness and build a community that is supportive of each other and the needs that exist within our society. It’s a chance for people with autism, families dealing with the trials of raising an autistic child and friends and relatives as well, to go out in their community with no judgment and no fear of being stigmatized. They can bond and make friends, and just proudly display their show of strength and support for the ones around them.
One of the most overwhelming moments for me last evening was when a group of my students serenaded Mustafa a local boy for his Birthday. They sang for him, cheered him on loudly and even gave him ‘birthday bumps’ like they would to any of their other friends. All the while Mustafa’s face radiated with a glow that was so endearing. I’m sure his spirit soared in those brief and fleeting moments.
All around us, there were magical moments like that unfolding. People embracing, singing, hooting, cheering, walking hand in hand and creating little memories that will last a lifetime.
I hope that over time, people learn to see autism with new eyes and that they don’t jump to label these kids’ with complex medical terminology. Each child with Autism has such a unique personality, their own dreams, goals and personal aspirations. That’s why the awareness is so important and is such an important responsibility for the rest of us. Only when people are aware can they help make those special dreams come true.