Eminent singer, actor and writer Ali Zafar on Tuesday led an autism awareness walk on The Mall in connection with World Autism Day that is marked on April 2.

The walk was organized by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Welfare Trust in connection with the 12th World Autism Awareness Day celebrated throughout the world, with a message to speak out against discrimination and celebrate the diversity of this differently-abled community.

Speaking at the event, Zafar said people suffering from autism were the real heroes and superstars. “They have talent to see and analyse things from a different and unique perspective. They can be exceptionally good with music, arts and computers. We must all try to remove stigma associated with disabilities.”

Later, Zafar along with ASD Welfare Trust Chairperson Rukhsana Shah and dozens of other attendants led the walk that began at Children’s Library Complex and ended at the Governor’s House.

A large number of students, teachers, parents and doctors participated in the walk to raise awareness about the disorder.

Addressing the participants, Zafar said, “We must spread awareness to help support and understand the special needs of those diagnosed with autism. They must be provided with appropriate education and the means to thrive and reach their highest potential.”

The singer said there was a need to create an inclusive society in Pakistan where physical barriers were eliminated and persons with disabilities were included in every sphere of social, economic and political activities.

ASD Welfare Trust Chairperson Ms Rukhsana Shah highlighted the lack of awareness about autism in the society, saying a recent survey in a leading college in Lahore revealed that almost no student studying at the college had even heard of autism.

“Similar results have been witnessed in other academic institutions in the country. Autism is the fastest-growing neurological disorder in the world, with one out of 60 children being diagnosed with this condition last year. In Pakistan, very little is known about autism and other neurological disorders even among medical professionals,” she added.

Shah said autistic children, usually characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive behaviours, could have superb abilities with music and machines etc. “It’s just that we need to explore their potential,” she added.

She laid a stress on developing more support, awareness, understanding and improved standards of education for these gifted individuals.

Senior Clinical Psychologist of ASD Welfare Trust Farah Amanat said there was no medicine in the word to cure autism, but the life of people with autism could be improved by training, love and care.

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