August 1st saw approximately 50 members of the Middle Eastern community from the Sacramento area attend a very special autism awareness event at the UC Davis Mind Institute. In addition to parents, there were many young professionals in the audience who, at the end of the evening, expressed their desire to become involved in serving the special needs of the Middle Eastern community, both in the U.S. and overseas.
Senses Cultural founder and CEO, Tata Monfared, began the evening by describing the efforts of her organization to improve the lives of those impacted by disability and/or the trauma associated with being a refugee.
Ms. Monfared thanked the MIND Institute’s executive director, Dr. Leonard Abbeduto, for making the MIND’s auditorium available for the event and, very importantly, for his signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the MIND Institute and Senses Cultural.
The agreement describes plans to cooperate in the promotion of academic collaboration with institutions in Iran, and elsewhere, in the areas of education, treatment and research related to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and fragile X syndrome. The agreement focuses on:
- Exchange of academic faculty;
- Exchange of students;
- Exchange of information and knowledge including articles within academic publications;
- Joint or cooperative organization educational, scientific and cultural events.
Dr. Randi Hagerman, the MIND Institute’s Medical Director and a member of the Senses Cultural Board of Directors, will help guide the process of bringing evidence-based knowledge to the Middle Eastern community of the greater Sacramento area and to the Middle East.
The evening speakers and topics were:
- Randi Hagerman, MD: Medical Workup and Targeted Treatments in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fragile X Syndrome
- Marzieh Forghani, PSYD: Autism Stigma and the Role of Ethnicity and Culture: Providing Feedback to Families
- Marsha Chinichian, PhD: Parenting Skills Within the Middle Eastern Culture
- Sarah Dufek, PhD: Autism Spectrum Disorders – Behavioral Treatments and Parent Coaching
All of the speakers emphasized the importance of understanding and respecting the uniqueness of a family’s culture when implementing an autism treatment plan and all also noted that it is essential to see a child’s parents as “partners” in the child’s education and therapy to ensure the understanding and respect take place.
Senses Cultural plans to organize more workshops and conferences for families from a Middle Eastern background who have a child with autism, and for the professionals who work with those families.
Special guests at the event included Delaine Eastin, previously candidate for Governor of California, and former California Supper School Intendant, and Dr. Daniel Rockers, President-Elect of the California Psychological Association and Past President, Sacramento Valley Psychological Association.
Senses Cultural intends to continue its efforts to make the world a better place for families, especially those who struggle with the effects of neurodevelopmental disorders and trauma, and the event at the MIND Institute was an important step in that Direction.