The acceptance and inclusion of autistic people is our collective and individual responsibility, says SCRF panel
Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival hosts health sector experts and autism parents to discuss support and policy frameworks for autistic people from childhood through to adulthood
Sharjah, May 14, 2023
A panel of experts recently gathered at the 14th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival to discuss the crucial topic of autism in children. The focus of the discussion was to understand the challenges surrounding the understanding and acceptance of autistic children in the UAE and the scope for a comprehensive system of care.
The panel was composed of Dr Ammar Albanna, head of the child and adolescent mental health centre of excellence at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, psychologist, life coach and writer Dr Amal Al Hamid, and Francesca Mendes, former Mexican ambassador to the UAE and author of ‘Why Doesn’t Fernando Want to Grow Up?’, a book based on her autistic son. The session was moderated by Hassan Ahmad Dennaoui, also known as DJ Big Hass, who is a parent of an autistic son.
The experts pointed out that it is crucial to recognize that all autistic children are different and cannot be treated the same way. Dr Albanna explained that autism is a neurological condition, but each autistic child is unique within their condition. “The common factor among these children are difficulties in social and emotional communication as well as interaction, in addition to other symptoms such as behavioural problems,” the doctor explained.
Dr Al Hamid stated that acceptance among the family is crucial to combat these stereotypes and stated that, ”Parents should not treat their children as odd or differently because it can be detrimental and reinforce stigmas. Early intervention and awareness are important to dispel notions among individuals and society that autistic children are disabled in some way.”
Mendes added that it is essential to offer activities that support the inclusion of autistic children into adulthood saying, “The more intolerant, misinformed, and misunderstanding society is, the more difficult it will be for autistic individuals to adjust.” She emphasised the importance of creating an informed and empathetic society to improve the inclusion of autistic people.
The experts concluded by pointing out that understanding, acceptance, and inclusion of autistic people are not only the collective responsibility of society, but also the personal responsibility of individuals.