Raising awareness of autism and reducing the stigma around it in Qatar was the focus of a session during Qatar Foundation initiative WISE’s Doha Learning Days, which has got underway at Msheireb Downtown Doha.
The session, titled My Different Friends, featured interactive activities organized by three Qatari mothers who established the Autism Parents Platform, and brought together students, educators and parents.
Students aged from 8-10 years learned about autism and the most important challenges the parents and children with autism face, with the aim of enhancing their awareness about it, and recognizing why it is important to accept each other's differences.
During the session, a My Different Friends activity booklet was distributed to the students, including interactive graphics and data to engage them in the session, where Fatima Al Muraikhi, one of the mothers who led the activities, explained through the drawings how differences exist in everyone, from names and faces to ways of thinking.
“Differences are everywhere, even in the types of play that we prefer and the ways in which we express our feelings,” she said. “Diversity in us, and in all aspects of life, is what makes it more beautiful.”
The students drew their faces as an interactive activity that highlights the different ways in which people express themselves. They also introduced the ways in which people communicate with others and with the things around them, whether through colors, hand signals, speech, or writing.
Aisha Al-Amari, who was also among the mothers of children with autism leading the session, spoke about autism spectrum disorder, and the most important features that distinguish children with autism.
“Children with autism have different ways of expression, and they learn how to live with this spectrum that accompanies them for life,” she said. “Providing support, assistance, and acceptance to them can contribute to improving their lives for the better.”
During the session, the students sent special messages to community members to make the world a better place for people with autism, such as "Be a friend, be kind, bullying is unacceptable."
The Autism Parents Platform was established on Instagram two years ago, with the aim of providing services to families of children with autism. It organizes awareness workshops and events, and training sessions in shopping malls and entertainment centers to enhance employee awareness on how to deal with children with disabilities.
"We wanted, through Doha Learning Days, to provide sufficient information to children about autism in a useful and fun way, to enable them to understand autism and how to communicate and build friendships with children with autism,” said Al-Amari. “The students' interaction was wonderful."
At the end of the session, the students wrote down expressions of support, love, and support for all children with autism, stressing that they would accept and defend them when they are being bullied, and that they would be their friends for life.
WISE Doha Learning Days 2023 continues until 4 February. To learn more about the festival, visit www.wise-qatar.org/doha-learning-days-23
Source and cover image credit: Press Release
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