Qatar is a global leader in championing the rights and opportunities of those with disabilities, including autism. At the forefront of Qatar’s efforts in autism research, awareness, and other mental disabilities are Her Highness Sheikha Moza.
HH Sheikha Moza has continuously championed the rights of those with disabilities. In 2008, at an annual United Nations gathering, Sheikha Moza proposed the first-ever global “Autism Awareness Day”. This day, now being celebrated for the 13th year in a row, has been complemented and embodied by Qatar’s efforts, in both the political and medical realm, in advancing quality of life for those with autism.
Sheikha Moza, in regard to children diagnosed with autism, stated:
“It is our deep faith that God is compassionate and merciful, and mercy is what he bestows upon His subjects. He is generous and beautiful, and beauty is what he gives. That is how we should see the world, beautiful, with all its resources and contents, known to us or unknown.
Qatar, our beloved, be they human buds or wild flowers, all are blossoms, all are natural, and all are beautiful, bearing Qatar’s name. Let us all work together, caring for our little buds.
Let us plant them deep in the consciousness of our land. Let us nurture them with love and care, to help them blossom into flowers filled with beautiful scents and to fill their surroundings with beauty.”
Additionally, Qatar is a signatory of the “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” that both recognizes and advocates for the fundamental human rights of those with disabilities. Domestically, Qatar has also made significant strides in incorporating those with autism into schools and society. In 2009, Qatar’s Supreme Education Council (similar to a Department of Education) established an Additional Educational Support Needs (AESN) unit to supplement children in school.
These actions were followed by a 2012 reclassification of autism as a distinct category rather than being placed under the blanket term of “Mental Disability”. The latest development, domestically, is that Qatar has launched a 5-year plan targeting autism. The official title, “Qatar National Autism Plan, 2017-2021” is composed of six pillars that target autism, as well as 44 recommendations to the government to implement to achieve the goals of the plan.
In 2016, the Qatar Foundation launched several schools specifically designed to assist children affected by autism and their families. Autism awareness and the quality of life of those diagnosed with autism have been dramatically improved by the efforts of the royal family and the people of Qatar. The nation continues to move forward and stands at the forefront of autism awareness, research, and advocacy.
(Image Source: Shafallah Center For Children with Special Needs)