Mohammed and his 18-year-old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) held hands the entire time during the WeWalk 2023 at Dubai Science Park. They walked with hundreds of people who gathered to raise awareness and funds for children with Autism.

Mohammed is a part of the Dubai Autism Centre (DAC) that provides support for his son.

“Not everybody knows about Autism. So with events like this they can get together and help each other,” he said. Mohammed believes that through awareness events people will realise that those with ASD are “part of the community, and we should understand them.”

Usha Shah attended with her 14-year-old son Nikhil and his behavioural support provider Kris Davies. While Nikhil happily kicked a ball around, Shah said she believes awareness will lead to changes that will provide necessary accommodations for people of determination (POD).

“Mothers like me are struggling now to find teens and adulthood support. There needs to be more inclusivity inside schools,” she said.

ASD is a developmental disorder that can be detected in early childhood, though many cases may be undiagnosed until much later due to the varying degrees of abilities and needs of people with autism.

Nick Watson, the host for WeWalk, had his 20-year-old POD son, Rio, in attendance. Watson and his family regularly participate in races while pushing Rio in his wheelchair. “Rio loves to be a part of what we do. We need a lot more walks like this. It brings people together. It’s great for families to see that we're all a little bit different and we need to make sure we include everyone.”

Dubai police mounted on horses and supercars headed the parade, followed closely by a marching band. The 3.5km track set up was filled with kids challenging each other to runs and people in wheelchairs taking part alongside people jogging with balloon hats.

Hanna, who studied speech therapy and hopes to work with POD and ASD children, walked to show her support. She believes more people need to know that autistic people can be independent when provided with proper assistance. “People have different notions about what autism is. They think that autistic people cannot do anything, but no it's not like that.”

Maha, 59 years old and out-jogging many of the younger people, said that she had always wanted to be part of an event that supports POD. “It's beneficial to us more than people of determination. It allows you to understand their life. You are part of the event and can support them. This is a very simple thing to support. You are able to empathise with them.”

After the walk, children eagerly sat down to get animals painted on their faces while adults swayed to the band playing on stage. The Dubai Science Park filled with laughter and music as people from all walks of life were able to mingle and share stories of their experiences with ASD.

All proceeds from the WeWalk 2023 walkathon will be donated in support of DAC's mission to empower children with autism through education and therapeutic interventions.

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