Professor Heba Kotb, research associate Ashley Parnell, filmmaker Noha El Hennawy and professor Russanne Hozayin discussing the state of autism in Egypt. Photo by Maged Mekawy.
Attendees listening to Dr. Heba Kotb discuss the basic characteristics of autism. Photo by Maged Mekawy.
Dr. Kotb further explaining the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Photo by Maged Mekawy.
An attendee asking about the ways to assist autistic adults. Photo by Maged Mekawy.
"It's very hard to get any kind of treatment outside of Cairo," said professor Hozayin. Photo by Maged Mekawy.
"These children should have easy access to treatment facilities," said one of the struggling mothers during her interview in the documentary. Photo by Maged Mekawy.

April is known as the Autism Spectrum Disorders Awareness Month and it is symbolized by the blue color. On April 2, 2017, the American University in Cairo held an event called “Autism Awareness: Film Screening and Discussion.” The event was hosted by AUC's Graduate School of Education and the School of Libraries and Learning Technologies. The panelists were Dr. Rusanne Hozayin from the International and Comparative Education department, filmmaker Noha El Hennawy, research associate Ashley Parnell and Dr. Heba Kotb from the Psychology department. Each one of them presented a different aspect related to autism in the Egyptian society. The event started with the screening of El Hennawy’s documentary movie “The Autism Ordeal: Mothers tell their stories.” It was then followed by two brief presentations conducted by Dr. Kotb and Parnell. The aim behind this event was to show how mothers both in the public and the private sectors deal with Autism Spectrum Disorders and what obstacles do children face .

Dr. Kotb’s presentation introduced Autism Spectrum Disorders as “a group of developmental disorders that includes a wide range spectrum of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability.” According to the World Health Organization, there is no specific cause of Autism Spectrum Disorders. The WHO also stated that there could be some environmental or genetic factors.

Parnell then talked about early intervention and she said that “the earlier the diagnosis the better the long term effects.”

"The earlier the diagnosis the better the long term effects," said Parnell. Photo by Maged Mekawy.

After the presentations the Q&A session started in which many people asked some questions and shared their stories. Attendees were mainly concerned with the environment in Egypt that does not allow autistic children to flourish. They discussed how the Egyptian military does not excuse autistic boys from performing their service and how the government is doing nothing about it.

When asking Dr. Heba after the event about the government’s role she said that it is not doing enough and that “the government needs to help in the area of early identification, early intervention, and improving facilities available for children with autism.”

Russanne Hozayin encouraged students at the end to sign up as advocates and offer their services in autistic centers. She also pointed out some of the successful and helpful centers in Egypt.

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