By Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: On April 2 iconic landmarks around Egypt will be lit in blue to mark the “Light it Up Blue” campaign on World Autism Awareness Day, a global initiative aimed at shedding light on the disorder.
Around the world, April 2 is dedicated to celebrating the talents and skills of people with autism as well as raising awareness about their malady. Egypt is commemorating the day with various activities this year.
Besides the “Light it Up Blue” campaign, which will see the Pyramids of Giza lit in blue, a series of events are also planned by the Egyptian Autistic Society.
“We will start the day by meeting at the society’s headquarters and at 10 am we’ll start the Autism Walk,” said Dr Dahlia Soliman, founder and president of the Egyptian Autistic Society.
The walk will head to Wadi Degla Club where an autism awareness documentary will be screened at 12 pm, followed by a press conference and finally a carnival at 2 pm that will include various kinds of entertainment and activities.
World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) highlights the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention as well as the developmental challenges faced by people suffering from autism.
The Egyptian Autism Awareness campaign is operating under the slogan, “Give us a chance,” and calls for including autistic students in schools and universities all over Egypt, general rights other than special needs rights, and changing rules and regulations pertaining to autistic children.
The Egyptian Autistic Society was founded in 1999 to cater to individuals with autism and their families and to raise awareness and understanding of the disorder in Egypt. Their main aim is to provide early intervention services that address autistic children’s learning and developmental needs.
For the rest of the month, the society will be holding workshops for pediatricians all over Egypt as part of the campaign, encouraging early detection and early intervention, screening tests and behavioral therapy.
Their ultimate goal is to mainstream every autistic child in Egypt, according to Soliman, who will be speaking next week at Bibliotheca Alexandria. As of today, they have succeeded in sending off 30 students to mainstream schools.
This is the fifth year WAAD is celebrated after the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 62/139 on Dec. 18, 2007, tabled by the State of Qatar, declaring April 2 WAAD in perpetuity.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. It is typically diagnosed around the age of two to three years old and exists throughout a person’s life, with symptoms that can vary dramatically from mild to severe.
There are different signs to look for at different ages, but a few of the most common signs are lack of name recognition, inability to make and maintain eye contact and loss of words at any age. In clinical terms, there are a few absolute indicators, often referred to as “red flags” that indicate that a child should be evaluated. For a parent, these are the red flags that your child should be screened to ensure that he or she is on the right developmental path.
Other signs include no big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter, no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter, no babbling by 12 months, no back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months, no words by 16 months and any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age.