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.

Happy Nowruz from Senses Cultural

The arrival of spring provides us a renewed opportunity to give back to our community. It gives us a chance to turn our attention to those who have more challenging lives than our own. This spring, Senses Cultural is celebrating the work we’ve done to expand autism awareness among parents living in the U.S. and throughout the Middle East.

UC Davis’ Randi Hangerman (center) was among a team of experts who joined Senses Cultural at a series of international autism conferences in Tehran and Isfahan.

Your continued support helps make it happen. It helps us maintain our Scholarship Fund, which gives Middle Eastern students the opportunity to study autism at the UC Davis MIND Institute, with the goal of returning to their own communities to give back.

It also helps us host multi-national conferences in Tehran and the U.S. Like this past December 2017, when Senses Cultural made history by bringing together a team of neurodevelopmental experts to Iran for a series of autism events in Tehran and Isfahan including conferences, a teacher training workshop and informal consultations with parents. The UC Davis team included Randi and Paul Hagerman, Marsha Chinichian, Melissa Mello and Robert Miller. The team also included Monila Rahimi, Laura Greiss Hess, Kerrie Lemons Chitwood and Stephanie Sherman, who trained at the MIND, among other experts.

Thanks again for your support!

Happy Nowruz!

With Love,

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.