Autism Awareness Month: Forging New International Collaborations

Dr. Randi Hagerman of UC Davis MIND Institute and DR. Mohammad Nami of Shiraz University talk at the 2nd International Autism Conference in Tehran.
Dr. Randi Hagerman of UC Davis MIND Institute and Dr. Mohammad Nami of Shiraz University talk at the 2nd International Autism Conference in Tehran.

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and this month we’re honored to share that Senses Cultural is embarking on an international, and multidisciplinary, collaboration to further both research and awareness of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders in both the U.S. and Iran.

Through Senses Cultural, Shiraz University will collaborate with Dr. Randi Hagerman, the Medical Director of MIND Institute at The University of California, Davis, and other scholars at the MIND Institute, to build an academic bridge in autism research.

Dr. Mohammad Nami, who is the head of the Department of Neuroscience and Vice-Chancellor for Research and Technology Affairs at Shiraz University, says this relationship is a big step forward in autism research and education.

“It is really nice to see that a foundation like Senses Cultural is trying to make this link and catalyze the potentials for a bilateral collaboration between the scholars and experts from both institutions,” says Dr. Nami. “We are trying to broaden the audiences that we are facing. It’s not only about teaching and learning, it’s also to put this into practice and to make parents, and other people who are affected by these disorders, part of the network. So we’re going to just synergize all the efforts in autism research to take that to the next level.”

Dr. Nami says while the team at Shiraz University is focused on the behavioral and cognitive aspects of autism research, experts from UC Davis’ MIND Institute are pioneers in the research of molecular genetics and neuro-genetics of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and also have a focus on the cognitive and behavioral aspects of autism. He says collaborations will open new doors.


“The field of research and clinical practice in autism is really broad. We have more than 20 different issues to tap into ranging from sensory issues, diet interventions, anxiety, quality of life, sleep, epilepsy diagnosis, and many different aspects of motor skills, cognitive performance, and aging even in autistic spectrum disorder cases or Fragile X syndrome cases. No one can be perfect in all the different aspects of autism and Fragile X research.”

In December 2017, scholars from the two universities convened at the 2nd International Autism Conference in Tehran. Dr. Nami says the cross-pollination of knowledge between scholars at both institutions is not only an asset to academics, but to families dealing with autism. He says the long-term goal is to expand the network to include English, Farsi and Arabic-speaking families and academics throughout the Middle East and U.S.

“I look forward to new corridors that will be in front of us, and that will help to address a wider audience, and help them gain a better understanding of autism and Fragile X syndrome, and help them deal with all this suffering, and help them change their way of living to gain a better quality of life.”

Senses Cultural catalyst for autism awareness training at Shiraz University

Senses Cultural CEO Tata Monfared and the Vice Chancellor for Global Strategies and International Affairs at Shiraz University Medical Sciences in Iran, Dr. Nasrollah Erfani, as well as the Department of Neuroscience at Shiraz Medical University formalized the collaboration through the Memorandum of Understanding in late March 2018. Dr. Mohammad Nami and Senses Cultural believe the possibilities are limitless.

A Trip to be Remembered!

Senses Cultural: Last December, Senses Cultural and its representative in Iran, Shokraneh Mavaddat Jahani, made history when it brought a team of neurodevelopmental experts to Iran for a series of events in Tehran and Isfahan including conferences, meetings at research institutes, a visit to an early intervention center, a teacher training workshop and informal consultations with parents. Almost two years in the planning, the event was sponsored and organized by Senses Cultural in collaboration with an Iranian-based NGO, the Charity Foundation for Special Diseases led by Dr. Fatemeh Hashemi, and included the 2nd International Autism Conference in Tehran on December 9th& 10th.

As a result of Senses Cultural’s unique US governmental approval for facilitating the exchange of knowledge about autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders between the U.S. and Iran, we made important progress in our efforts to promote healthy lives for the people of Iran and the U.S., particularly those who have a child with special needs.

Here are just a few of the events that occurred over the week-long trip:

  • Workshop for over 200 Iranian special educators by four highly-qualified professionals from the UC Davis MIND Institute, along with the respected Dr. Mesbah Ansari, a UN specialist and newly joined Senses Cultural Board of Advisory:

Here are a few efforts in a process that resulted from the trip and that we are hopeful will lead to the signing of agreements between major Iranian universities and Senses Cultural in cooperation with US academic institutions:

  • Development of a curriculum for a School of Autism in Iran, in partnership with the Iranian Ministry of Education for kids with special needs.
  • The transfer of evidence-based models of autism treatment to improve outcomes for young children with autism and neurodevelopmental disorders.
  • The development of collaborative genetic research programs, including stem cell research, with Ruyan Institute in Tehran and their major branch in Isfahan.
  • The development of online consultation between clinicians in the US and Iran for the benefit of families in Iran.

A Memorandum of Understanding with Shiraz University Department of Neuroscience for the exchange of medical information, the organizing of a research program and the engagement of young and enthusiastic researchers through their participation in the UC Davis MIND Institute International Training Program in Neurodevelopmental Disorders. This project is being organized in collaboration with Dr. Mohammad Nami, Head of the Department of Neuroscience.

Dr. Nami is a brilliant scientific figure and we are honored to have him as the newest member of the Senses Cultural Advisory Board.

We owe this all to:

  • Randi Hagerman,UC Davis MIND Institute
  • Paul Hagerman, UC Davis MIND Institute
  • Marsha Chinichian, UC Davis MIND Institute
  • Melissa Mello, UC Davis MIND Institute
  • Stephani Sherman, Atlanta University
  • Laura Greiss Hess -Dominican University of California
  • Kerrie Lemons Chitwood- California State University Monterey
  • Monila Rahimi, a faculty member at Sutter Center for Psychiatry (Sacramento, CA)
  • Onur Durson, University of Ataturk, 25240, Erzurum, Turkey

We were honored by the support of:

  • Charity FoundationFor Special Diseases (CFFSD) and the honorable Dr. Fatemeh Hashemi and her supportive team including:
  • Kia Tabatabaee
  • Mohammad Kian
  • Solmaz Sabet
  • Farhangsarayeh Niavaran
  • Abbas Sajjadi
  • Tehran University- Dr. Mohammad Reza Mohammadi.
  • The Ministry of Education
  • The Educational Ministry for Special Needs- Dr. Monireh Azizi and Ms. Shahnaz Karimi
  • Isfahan University- Dr. Sabri and Dr. Mohamad Reza Sadeghi

Senses Cultural team:

Shokraneh Mavaddat jahani team of contributors:

  • Mehdi Khalili, PSYD- Managing Director
  • Nastaran Ershad
  • Jila Sharifie
  • Fatemeh Negahban
  • Mohammad Esmailie
  • Homeira Azimi
  • Negar yazdan Panah
  • Atiyeh Razavi

and so many other dedicated contributors and supporters like you.

Senses Cultural is part of a community working to bring a better life to families, mothers and children who are dealing with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders such as fragile X syndrome. Together we can make changes through the sharing ofknowledgeand the building of collaborations dedicated to solvingthe mysteries of autism.

We ask you to join us in building healthier communities around the world. The path is clear! Let’s walk this together.

Thanks again,
Tata Monfared

Senses Cultural’s Efforts in Tehran and Isfahan

Over 200 guests benefited from in-depth presentations regarding autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders at the 3rdInternational Autism Conference at The Presidential Club in Tehran. This important event, sponsored by the Charity Foundation for Special Diseases, The University of Tehran and Senses Cultural, brought together leading Iranian specialists and, through the efforts of Senses Cultural, visiting specialists from universities in the United States and Turkey.
Day one was focused on scientific research and clinical interventions for an audience of professionals, while day two featured practical, day-to-day intervention recommendations from a child psychologist, a behaviorist, a speech and language specialist and an occupational therapist. In addition, numerous formal and informal meetings took place between the leaders of various research institutions to discuss potential collaborations focused on the needs of affected children and their families. Immediately prior to the conference, Senses Cultural arranged for a one-day conference for professionals in the city of Isfahan, followed by a visit to an early intervention school for children with all types of special needs related to intellectual disabilities. All in all, it has been an eventful week for Senses Cultural and its work in Iran.