"Autism", a word Egypt has been hearing about in the past couple of weeks, leading to the big spread of blue across Egypt on April 2, which is the World’s Autism Awareness Day.
Autism, or to put it scientifically, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a disorder characterized by challenges in the social, behavioral and communication aspects. Children fall on a spectrum that reflects the variety of challenges and strengths of every individual. Signs begin around the age of 18 months in some cases but most signs are very apparent around the age of two to three years old.
For the past couple of years, the Egyptian Autistic Society led by Dr. Dahlia Soliman has been fighting to spread awareness on the disorder and this year was not any different. This year’s campaign was accompanied with the hashtags "#MoreToAutism” and "#MatlakhasneeshfKelma. It aimed to highlight that autism is more than just a label, that these children have talents and capabilities far more than just being called autistic.
The campaign reached out to many people through teasers, videos, and posts with the help of sponsors, public figures, celebrities and media outlets all supporting the initiative. However, it did not stop there. Part of the campaign is Lighting up monuments in blue (LIUB) and the list this year was a long one, starting from The Great Pyramids of Giza to the Suez Canal and others. It did not focus on Cairo on its own but rather the larger scale that is Egypt.
To embark on the journey of awareness through the month of April, the Egyptian Autistic Society started by having a press conference with the presence of several public figures whether Military, Ministers, Actors and Actresses and people of Religion. However, the month is still not done. Several facts about autism were posted on their Facebook page, with videos portraying the diverse capabilities that these children have, whether from playing an instrument, listening to their music, designing dresses, drawing, teaching themselves different languages through observation or even swimming and winning medals.
Awareness also had to be brought up from within the younger generations to come. A presentation was made for different schools that were keen on helping their peers know more about the cause. They were to visit the society, undergo several sensory activities like arts and crafts, and create a booth or talk at their school about autism from what they have learned. Also, children from the autistic society spent a day at the 57357 Cancer Hospital where they played together as an initiation from the hospital to help spread autism awareness.
Autism Awareness does not stop after April 2, we shouldn’t limit these children to a word or a disorder, we should rather see them as the people they are with the capabilities they have.