New York University Abu Dhabi is taking part in the global campaign “Light it up Blue,” and lighting part of the exterior of the campus blue in recognition of Autism Awareness Month.
Light it up Blue is a global initiative led by the U.S.-based organization Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization that promotes research and awareness of autism. In an effort to involve the broader community throughout the month, NYUAD is also holding a series of events in collaboration with community-based organizations to highlight the need for increased awareness and education around autism, which sees high prevalence rates in the UAE.
Suparna Mathur, Assistant Director of Community Outreach said “ Lighting our campus blue is a symbol of our contributions to increasing acceptance for children on the autism spectrum. Our efforts this month span from providing educational resources to bringing together parents, educators and volunteers around a shared goal of building a more inclusive community.”
On April 25, the NYUAD Office of Community Outreach and the Abu Dhabi Autism Support Network (ASN), a local support network, will host a conference for families and partners of autism, bringing together 40 families touched by autism to hear from Dr. Louise McHugh, Lecturer, School of Psychology with the University College Dublin.
Dr. McHugh has developed protocols to help children develop their cognitive skills, and she has translated them into an accessible iPad app that allows children to undergo training in their own space and time. Dr. McHugh has published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers, edited the 2012 book The Self and Perspective Taking: Contributions and Applications from Modern Behavioural Science, and has been an invited speaker at numerous autism-related conferences in the United States and Europe.
Sharifa Yateem, Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) from the UAE, will also lead a session in Arabic for parents aimed at introducing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as an evidence-based treatment for children with autism.
NYUAD Class of 2018 student organizer Hannah Taylor said: “We're hoping that celebrating Autism Awareness Month on campus will set the tone for a community centered around support and awareness. NYUAD students volunteer with special needs children throughout the year, and our events this month are an opportunity to recognize that commitment while having an ongoing dialogue on how to increase our impact.”
On April 25, NYUAD and the art education charity START are also hosting the Open Windows Exhibition, celebrating the art and creativity of students from the Zayed Higher Organization (ZHO) Abu Dhabi Centre for Autism and Future Centre for Special Needs (FCSN). Each piece of art is a window giving a unique glimpse of the thoughts and views of a bright child with special needs.
The family conference and exhibition will be followed by a public companion program hosted by the NYUAD Institute on April 26 from 6:30 to 8:00pm at the NYUAD Conference Center.