Living with autism: a focus on families with Middle Eastern backgrounds


We are pleased to announce an upcoming Senses Cultural special event bringing help to Middle Eastern communities and refugee families dealing with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

The event will take place at the UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento from 5:30pm-7:30pm on Wednesday, August 1st, 2018.

The evening will begin with welcoming remarks by Dr. Len Abbeduto, Director of UC Davis MIND Institute.

Panels include:

  • Medical Workup and Targeted Treatments in Autism Spectrum Disorder including Fragile X syndrome: Dr. Randi Hagerman
  • Autism Stigma and the Role of Ethnicity and Culture: Providing Feedback to Families: Dr. Marzieh Forghani
  • Parenting Skills within  Middle Eastern Cultures: Dr. Marsha Chinichian
  • Applying for Molecular and Cellular Medicine in Autism: Dr. Karim Nayernia
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders – Behavioral Treatments and Parent Coaching: Dr. Sarah Dufek

Please RSVP at

When: 5:30 – 7:30pm, August 1, 2018.
Where: UC Davis MIND Institute on the Medical Center Campus, Auditorium
Light refreshments will be provided. Free parking. This event is open to the public.

Your support and recognition would allow us to take this type of event to additional sites and communities. We would appreciate any donation you are able to provide to help Senses Cultural continue hosting autism awareness events in the United States, Iran and internationally.

Please make checks payable to Senses Cultural or make a donation through our website or Facebook page.

Senses Cultural is a nonprofit organization and has received IRS 501(c)(3) approval, which allows us to receive tax-deductible donations. Senses Cultural is an authorized organization by US Treasury Department to participate in health-related activities with Iran under OFAC License No. 1A-2016-334150-1.

Senses Cultural to cohost autism workshops at Tehran autism school

Senses Cultural will be co-hosting two Living with Autism workshop at an autism school in Tehran with the support of the Tehran Ministry of Education for Children with Special Needs on May 27, 2018. The workshops are in collaboration with our sister company Shokraneh Mavaddat Jahani, a group in Iran promoting the well-being of mothers, families, and children with special need.

The first Living with Autism workshop, hosted during the day, will be for families with children living with autism. The conference will deal with the nuances of living with autism, with workshops specifically designed to help parents gain more knowledge about the disorder. Families will hear from Dr. Ismaili about massage therapy and sensory stimulation as autism treatment. We’ll also hear from Ms. Sharifi about behavioral reform and from Mr. Mesbah Ansari about the role of excitement and motivation in clinical behavior of people with autism.

The second Living with Autism workshop at the autism school in Tehran will also be on May 27th later that evening. These workshops will be focused on students and coaches workings with children with autism. Dr. Mohammad Nami of Shiraz University will discuss the effects of sleep problems in patients with autism spectrum, and Ms. Azadeh Zakaria will discuss using art as therapy for people living with autism.

Earlier this month Senses Cultural also co-hosted an autism workshop at Shiraz University, the first since we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Shiraz University. The workshops aimed to help families who have children with autism, as well as providing a space for experts to convene and collaborate.

Senses Cultural catalyst for autism awareness training at Shiraz University

Senses Cultural and the Department of Neuroscience at Shiraz University in Iran cohosted their first autism training event since signing a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2018.

The event, held Tuesday, May 1st, was in Shiraz at DANA Brain Health Institute, which is linked with Shiraz University.

Having a child with autism is a challenge. This workshop was organized to help parents navigate the many challenges, ranging for behavioral support to medical treatment. Over 50 parents with autistic kids attended the workshop in Shiraz. Parents had the opportunity to talk about concerns and getting practical solutions in advice in various aspects of handling the issues surrounding parenting an autistic kid. Speakers included Senses Cultural Advisory Board members Dr. Mohammad Nami and Dr. Marzieh Forgani.

The autism seminar at DANA Institute at Shiraz University in Iran on May 1, 2017 was in collaboration with Senses Cultural.

The MOU signed between Senses Cultural and Shiraz University in March 2018 aims to to foster research and training education initiatives in the field of autism and fragile X syndrome on an international scale.

Senses Cultural and Shiraz University hope to pursue a wide spectrum of research activity ranging from genetics to behavior and cognitive and also therapeutic aspects of autism and fragile X syndrome.

We are planning to organize more trainings, counseling programs and workshops either face-to-face or in webinar format.

Below are photos of the autism seminar at DANA Brain Health Institute at Shiraz University in Iran, held in collaboration with Senses Cultural.

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

International Women’s Day: honoring a trailblazer in autism research

Dr. Randi J. Hagerman directed a team of neurodevelopmental experts that Senses Cultural brought to Iran for an international autism conference.
Dr. Randi J. Hagerman directed a team of neurodevelopmental experts that Senses Cultural brought together in Iran for an international autism conference.

We at Senses Cultural care about mothers, our sisters and our grandmothers. Particularly those women navigating a life with children who have neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism.

On this International Women’s Day, we want to shine a spotlight on one woman who is helping these families by working with Senses Cultural to create a cultural and scientific bridge between the U.S. and Iran in the field of autism research and education.

Doctor Randi J. Hagerman is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and the Medical Director of the MIND Institute at UC Davis. She’s also on the Board of Directors of Senses Cultural.

Through the help and initiatives of NGO organizations, Senses Cultural brought universities in the U.S. and Iran together for the 2nd International Autism Conference in Tehran in December 2017. We invited a team of scientists and medical experts, with the direction of Dr. Hagerman, to increase autism awareness in Iran and worldwide.

Scientific experts from the U.S. and Iran convened of the 2nd International Autism Conference in Tehran in December 2017.
Scientific experts from the U.S. and Iran at the 2nd International Autism Conference in Tehran.

Dr. Hagerman is internationally recognized as both a clinician and researcher in the Fragile X syndrome field. She took almost 40 years of experience in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders to the autism conference in Tehran. She led a transfer of evidence-based models of autism treatment to improve outcomes for young children with autism and neurodevelopmental disorders in the U.S. and Iran. Collaborative genetic research programs were created. Online relationships between academics in both countries were established.

For the first time in the recent history of Iranian-American academic relationships, universities in the US and Iran are now working together to find genetic and medical treatments and education for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

One of our missions at Senses Cultural is creating a more peaceful and healthy environment by fostering understanding through sharing ideas across the globe. Today we honor Dr. Randi J. Hagerman for helping us achieve this goal, and we celebrate her contributions in the field of Fragile X syndrome internationally.