This guest Q&A is with Dr. Hibah Shata who is a dentist from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and lives in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Her daughter Sarah was diagnosed with autism. Dr. Hibah Shata founded three centers of excellence in Dubai, UAE that provide Early Intervention, Alternative Education and the new Center to offer students with Autism, ADD, ADHD, Learning Difficulties and other cognitive disorders, the School Support, Life Skills, Job Coaching and professional training to parents, professionals, teachers and school learning supports to develop the skills they need to support children and young adults to succeed.
Thanks so much for joining us today! How did you first become involved in the autism community?
My daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders when she was 18 months old in 2007 and this is when I realized that there is very little offered to children affected with Autism especially at very early age. I made decision to start an organization that can support her and other children with necessary diagnostic and early intervention therapeutic services.
What would you like people to know about autism from your experiences with the Child Early Intervention Medical Center?
Many families get devastated when they learn their child is on the Autism Spectrum, I tell them that the children are a gift to teach us the real values in life and how to appreciate the good things it brings, they will give us many joys when they start to learn new things they did not know before, and when they succeed we see our success and we dance with joy and pleasure, so don`t waste your time being upset, angry or depressed instead it is important for parents to accept, believe in their children and Learn more about Autism, learn how to manage the behaviors, learn how to communicate and how to play with their kids, learn how to teach them new things in new ways and reward them when they do good things, they shall not forget to look after themselves and do their best to be happy.
From your experiences what would say others need to know about cultural differences about autism around the world?
Autism is the same across all cultures; parent goes through the same struggles and challenges, many cultures do not understand these challenges and may not provide parent with the right advice or support, with awareness this can be changed, once parents accept, and take steps in the right direction, it is important to create an understanding and accepting community through collaborative efforts and the empowerment of the individuals affected with Autism with education and resources.
What’s next for you? Any fun events coming up?
The Global Autism Awareness Walk & Festival 2017 to kick off on Saturday, 15th April, where thousands of people will walk to support families of individuals affected with Autism. This is a very energetic, inclusive and fun filled day with many activities in a true inclusive environment support by the entire community.
For those reading this how can they learn more about your phenomenal efforts in our community?
Raising Awareness towards Autism perception, early signs and the importance of early intervention had helped many families access services very early and lead to many children access mainstream education, also the Government in the United Arab Emirate became more engaged and committed to empower the individuals affected with autism, and creating the policies and the monitoring bodies to ensure access to schools and facilitating inclusion in education and community at large.
The efforts also made our community more aware of the needs of students and adults with Autism. I encourage families to support their children and be their voice so no child is isolated.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
We are in the process of establishing our first Smart Center that will support children and young adults affected with autism to use technology resources for learning and communication and develop technical skills to enable them seek a career for their future. Our vision goes beyond providing them therapy to provide them with a future.