Kuwait Unites for Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd

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KUWAIT CITY. April 1: Kuwait will join the global celebration of World Autism Awareness Day tomorrow, Tuesday, sharing informative messages about the challenges individuals with autism face, how to interact with them, understand the

ir needs, and support their families. The annual celebration, initiated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007 and observed every April 2nd, aims to raise public awareness about autism, support education programs, and emphasize the rights of autistic individuals under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities confirming that individuals with autism are equal citizens with human rights. Multiple academics and experts commended, in separate interviews to KUNA, Kuwait’s dedicated efforts in caring for people with autism, underlining initiatives like centers, awareness events, and effective treatment programs aimed at integration

On her side, Dr. Fatima Ayad, a psychology professor at Kuwait University (KU), stated that Kuwait is among the leading Arab countries in caring for individuals with special needs as well as autism, through specialized organizations and advanced centers. She pointed out the huge number of Kuwaiti experts focused on autism, urging for the improvement of personnel skills in relevant organizations and centers through exceptional training courses and participation in global events. There are studies suggesting various potential causes of autism, including environmental factors, such as the “refrigerator mother,” a phenomenon characterized by a mother’s lack of emotional connection with the child, and the possibility of certain vaccinations like measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine being linked to autism, she noted.

She underscored the significance of early detection and accurate diagnosis of autism, mentioning its various categories: some with high intelligence, others with intellectual disabilities, and communication struggles, leading to self-isolation. In her perspective, Dr. Amthal Al-Huwailah, a faculty member at KU’s psychology department, stated that Kuwait has 20-30 government and private centers for skill development, behavioral modification, and occupational therapy for autism, along with schools for them. She clarified that autism is a prevalent developmental disorder involving social communication challenges, restricted behaviors, and varied, complex causes with no confirmed specific cause yet. Since 2009, genetic syndromes, mutations, and metabolic disorders have comprised up to 20 percent of autism cases, often featuring characteristic signs affecting various body parts associated with autism, she explained. While common genetic variations may impact the development of autism spectrum disorder, not all individuals with these genetic differences are affected, Dr. Al-Huwailah stated. She called for establishing a library housing various publications and autism research, coordinating between centers, setting up a hotline for parents and caregivers of autistic people to provide continuous support, and issuing an “autistic child card” to facilitate procedures for autistic children in hospitals, airports, and public service institutions.

She stressed the importance of supporting this group to help them integrate into society, adapt to life’s circumstances, and effectively manage their unique characteristics. Meanwhile, Dr. Nadia Al-Hamdan, a faculty member in the psychology department at KU, noted the presence of multiple accredited autism treatment centers in Kuwait and called for support and improvement of these centers with expertise from medical, technical, psychological, and social professionals.

She commended Kuwait Center for Autism, established by the General Secretariat of Endowments in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Kuwaiti philanthropists, as the first regional educational and training center for autism in the Arab world, meeting the needs of many families with expert services based on scientific and educational principles to refine children’s skills. The center’s impact has extended to many Gulf and Arab countries, becoming a global focal point for numerous research endeavors and events, she added, acclaiming the center’s role in organizing activities that raise awareness about autism and highlight their struggles and needs, she added.

She acknowledged the Public Authority for Disability Affairs for supporting individuals with autism and disabilities by organizing scientific events to enhance experts’ skills and providing support and awareness to families. There are roughly 20,000 autistic people in Kuwait, she pointed out, citing statistics from the World Health Organization indicating that globally, one in every 160 children is diagnosed with autism, with higher rates in Arab countries. Autism is a neurological disorder that affects all aspects of human development, manifesting in deficiencies in communication, behavior, learning, and interaction, without a specific known cause or definitive cure to date.

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