Today is the International Day for awareness of Autism" which many children and persons suffer around the world. According to a WHO report, the number of children and persons suffering autism is still on the rise in every country, ethnic and social groups.
This of course includes Yemen. Although there are no accurate statistics of the number of autistic cases in Yemen, but I remember meeting Aiman Hashem, Director of al-Iman Center for Children with Special Needs, in Sana'a at the end of 2010. She said that there are about one and a half million cases in Yemen that suffer a kind of disability which falls within autism.
Mostly those children and persons with special needs, don't receive the special care they need, which includes the medical or psychological care or both. Moreover the chances of integrating them into the community are very thin. They live in locked up and far from the community.
What is sad about these children and people with special needs is that they grow up in very poor conditions compared to the level of social customs in Yemen. They may live locked up in their houses for many reasons, either because their families feel ashamed of the disability of their children or due to the unprepared conditions outside the house, because the facilities, restaurants, parks and streets are not prepared to receive them.
It is natural that they stay held inside their houses, and what is worse is that the general attitude towards persons with special needs is negative, while such persons only lack the potentials of a normal person and need special care and a chance to prove themselves.
History tells of people with special needs who left behind their disabilities and excelled, and the late poet Abdullah al-Bardoni is an example. Despite losing his eyesight, he is still one of the most important poets and intellectuals in Yemen.
This International Day for Promotion of Awareness of autism patients is a chance to focus on this sector of our community which are buried alive and only need more care and chances.
The community needs to be aware that this sector has the right to live, enjoy life and contribute to building their country.
Country building is a long and continuous process and needs the joint efforts of all. The men and women with special needs can join forces for building the homeland. We should all promote our awareness with this disease in addition to the other disabilities, but most important than that is to change our negative position towards people with special needs and fight segregation against them.