Series of outreach activities educate wider community
Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), conducted a series of community outreach activities and events to mark World Autism Awareness Month – observed throughout the month of April – and raise autism awareness among the wider community.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in communication and social interaction, as well as restricted and repetitive behavior. Early diagnosis and behavioral rehabilitation are key to easing the effects of autism.
In a bid to promote a better understanding of the disorder among the public, QBRI held an array of awareness events in collaboration with partners, including Renad Academy, Qatar Academy Al Khor (QAK) and Qatar National Library (QNL).
QBRI initiated its autism awareness campaign on Tuesday, April 2, with an engaging and educational event for students at Qatar Academy Al Khor, where students interacted with QBRI researchers and learned about the disorder through activities and games. A similar event was conducted in partnership with the Qatar National Library on Monday, April 22, specifically catering for Mesaieed International School students.
Dr. Omar El-Agnaf, executive director of QBRI, said: “Autism is a neurological disorder that is often socially misunderstood, and can frequently go undiagnosed. QBRI’s collaboration with autism-related centers in Qatar enabled us to raise greater awareness and dispel false beliefs surrounding the disorder.”
Dr. Omar added “Autism is one of QBRI’s Neurological Disorders Research Center’s primary research areas of focus. Through awareness activities, we shed light on the importance of early detection of Autism and the intervention that should follow.”
Mireille Ishak, assistant principal at Qatar Academy Al Khor (QAK), said: “Autism awareness activities have served as a 'talking point' between students and teachers. Our learning community at QAK celebrate differences and one’s unique attributes. Students were able to appreciate and show empathy towards challenges associated with ASD, through a joint autism event with QBRI.”
QBRI took part in the Autism Awareness Day Celebration led by Renad Academy on Saturday, April 20, at Qatar Foundation’s Al Shaqab. QBRI’s booth was geared towards a family-oriented day of fun and learning. During the event, the wider community was able to meet with QBRI researchers who answered questions relating to autism while showcasing some of the autism-related research being conducted in Qatar.
Most recently, on Friday, April 26, QBRI held an event in collaboration with Renad Academy and the HBKU College of Science and Engineering (CSE) featuring educational and fun activities at Mall of Qatar. The event witnessed a great turnout and went further in helping increase public awareness.
Joining the academic debate, QBRI contributed to several broader discussions around the country by nominating leading scientists to present and answer questions on ASD. On Thursday, April 25, QBRI researchers also participated in the Autism Awareness Forum, which was activated by the Ministry of Public Health at the St. Regis Hotel in Doha. The forum emphasizes the need to improve the lives of people with autism and their families by establishing a supportive system that encourages early intervention and inclusive education for individuals with ASD.
QBRI is home to three research centers – Cancer Research Center, Diabetes Research Center, and the Neurological Disorders Research Center (NDRC). The NDRC focuses on investigating neurological disorders of increasing prevalence in Qatar and the region, including neurodevelopmental diseases such as Autism Spectrum Disorders; Intellectual Disability; and epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The institute is among three research-focused entities at HBKU. Collectively, HBKU’s research entities aim to address national and regional challenges, and are at the forefront of current and future development.
For more information on QBRI, please visit qbri.hbku.edu.qa.