Curtin University Dubai, in collaboration with industry partners and sponsors, hosted the Autism Transformation Carnival on Friday, April 7, 2023. The event aimed to create awareness and showcase the importance of inclusivity towards individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The carnival was attended by 400 guests, including children with ASD, parents, teachers, and other key stakeholders.
The event was moderated by Dr Sonakshi Ruhela, Program Coordinator – Psychology & Health Sciences at Curtin University Dubai; and Maria Vitoratos, Careers Educator & Coach and Faculty at Curtin University Dubai. Guests of Honour, Adel Sajan, Group Managing Director of Danube Group and Dr Sana Sajan, Director of American Aesthetic Medical Centre, collaborated with Curtin University Dubai to host the impactful carnival at their iconic venue – Danube Sports World with the theme, Autistic today, genius tomorrow.
Panellists from various backgrounds were welcomed, including Hong Chun Tan, Founder and Managing Director of Engage Behavioural Learning Dubai and Abu Dhabi; Dr Areej Ahmed, Chair of Education & Special Needs Expert at American University in the Emirates; Aparna Bajpai, Founder of Being She Group; Hollie Murphy, Founder of Heroes of Hope; and Dr Alka Kalra, Founder of Eduscan Group.
They took part in a discussion forum that focused extensively on Autism transformation, management, and quality of life from a UAE perspective. The panellists shared their experiences and opinions on managing situations with children and adults on the spectrum and working on improving the quality of life for them and their families.
“Autism awareness is not one day. It’s every day. Supporting students with inclusive practices to create equitable opportunities tops the list of priorities in everything we do for children with ASD,” shared Mr Hong Chun Tan, stressing the importance of creating awareness in society to support the learning and behavioural needs of these children.
Dr Areej Ahmed adds, “One of the key challenges we face with autism inclusion is society. Educating people to open up the minds of society and to dispel the idea of ‘normal children’ deserves greater attention. It’s important to appreciate all children and support their needs with patience.”
The discussion forum was followed by an inclusive sports activity which was led by hosts, Hollie Murphy of Heroes of Hope, and Dr Alka Kalra of the Eduscan Group at the Danube Sports World facility. The facility provides a safe and secure indoor sports environment with non-glaring lights to encourage children with autism to play sports with ease.
Networking opportunities at the event brought prospective opportunities for attendees, including 19-year-old student Dave, who dreams of opening a gym for people with autism. He connected with Mr Adel Sajan, who offered him mentorship and support to launch his business.
The event concluded with a ceremonial presentation of mementos to honour the efforts of all participants, collaborators, industry sponsors, students, parents, and volunteers from GEMS Modern Academy, GEMS New Millennium School, JSS Private School, Delhi Private School Dubai, Ambassador School, H.H Shaikh Rashid Al Maktoum Pakistani School, Westford University, and IMT Business School.
The Autism Transformation Carnival was a successful community event that brought together key stakeholders and highlighted the importance of inclusivity towards individuals with ASD. Curtin University Dubai is proud to have co-hosted such an impactful event with industry partners and sponsors, Danube Group (Danube Sports World), Eduscan Group, Heroes of Hope, Beingshe Group, Symbiosis Medical Centre, Openminds Centre for Psychiatry, Counselling and Neuroscience, Medeor Hospital Dubai, & LPFLEX International FZE, and looks forward to continuing to raise awareness and support the needs of individuals with ASD in the region.