DUBAI -- The UAE Ministry of Community Development and Image Nation Abu Dhabi, one of the leading media and entertainment companies in the region, have formed a partnership to educate school children about autism as a part of Autism Awareness Month and The UAE Year of Giving initiatives.

The two entities embarked on a three-day roadshow in May across the northern regions, including government schools in Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Fujairah. They conducted lectures and workshops for primary and secondary school children, parents and teachers.

The workshops were headed up by Sharifa Yateem, the UAE's only Emirati applied behavioural analyst and lead specialist in Image Nation's documentary "As One: The Autism Project."

Sharifa gave lectures to students on what autism is and what it means to be different using specially created video clips made by Image Nation. Additionally, she conducted workshops with leadership pupils on how to identify fellow students with autism and include them in the community.

Commenting on the collaboration, Sana Mohammed Sohil, Under-Secretary of the ministry, said, "The Ministry of Community Development exerts great effort to rehabilitate and fully integrate autistic patients into society. It also dedicates special attention to educating parents, and society in general, about the nature of the disease, and circulates the correct and scientific methods of working with autistic patients, especially children.

"The ultimate goal here is to help these patients move forward and advance in their lives. The ministry therefore always co-operates with government and private agencies in the country to support autistic patients, increase their productivity, and integrate them into the Emirati society," he added.

The ministry recently launched "Nomow," the first Arab app for early autism intervention. It markets this app through the "As One" documentary to raise awareness about the importance of early intervention and to offer necessary support to parents when mild autism symptoms are detected at an early stage.

The documentary was distributed to class teachers as a learning tool along with a discussion guide to be used in class. Following the roadshow in schools, the aim of the ministry is to take the initiative to universities in the UAE.

Sharifa Yateem, Applied Behavioural Analyst at the New England Centre for Children, said, "I was honoured to take the workshops to schools in the UAE and teach children what it means to have autism and how they can interact with autistic children. This is a very important issue and since the release of the film, it has been an instrumental tool in raising awareness of autism in the UAE and across the globe".

Source: Emirates News Agency