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Lagoona Mall and IFC- International Food Concept Company in Support of Children with Autism Initiatives in Qatar
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Doha, 19 December 2012: Lagoona Mall and IFC – International Food Concept joined hands on supporting national autism initiatives championed by local philanthropic organizations, Shafallah Center for Children with special needs and Best Buddies Qatar. International Food Concept, the holding company behind Chili’s and Lagoona Mall will run a display of paintings, crafted by the children of Shafallah Center affected by autism, as a combined endeavor to raise awareness of the disorder.
Children have drawn 12 paintings which have been adapted into an annual Calendar for 2013 by IFC in collaboration. The calendars will be sold in Chili’s restaurant at Lagoona Mall and all other branches including Bert’s Café, Johnny Rockets, Popeyes and Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Proceeds from these sales will be donated to the Shafallah Center.
Lagoona Mall had at least 6 of these paintings on display starting mid-December, leading up to a handover ceremony and reception which took place at Chili’s Lagoona Restaurant on 19th of December.

Sheikh Hamad bin Ahmad Al-Thani, Chairman of GTG- General Trading Group and the Mother Company of IFC, was the initiators of the project and delighted to pair IFC with Shafallah Center. He fully supports the project and believes that “Autism is not a tragedy… ignorance is….” The disability is a spectrum condition that affects everyone differently, therefore if we will help today – we can change tomorrow and draw the smile on children’s face.

Eamon Kelly, General Manager of Lagoona Mall said: “This is a wonderful heartfelt initiative and a great cause to be truly supported by everyone. We’re honored to take part in this program which aims at bringing together various walks of our community to help stand by those gifted children who are in need of special, continued and professional care. Our presence here is in line with our commitment to be a vanguard of social responsibility with community outreach activities that touch the young and old.”

Total number of ASD children, under 18 years of age and living in Qatar in 2009 was estimated at 294. The prevalence of the disorder rate is significantly on the rise worldwide from 1 in 10000 children in the early 90’s to an alarming 1 case in every 150 child in 2009. The rise in ASD rate has concomitantly raised public awareness, and increased the demands for more support services, recreational resources and highly trained special education professionals. Comparing the total numbers of ASD children (n=294) to typically developed students in Qatar (n=154092), ASD ratio was estimated to be 0.16% in 2009. Hamad Medical Corporation includes the highest number of ASD children (29%) in Qatar, followed by Shafallah Center for children with special needs (25%), Qatar Society for Rehabilitation & Special Needs (21%), and Doha International Center for Special Needs (13%). Less than 11% of ASD children are registered in Al-Farah Center, Sunbeam Kindergarten, Al-Jazeera.

Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life. Most parents of children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) suspect that something is wrong by the time the child is 18 months old and seek help by the time the child is age two. Children with ASD present with symptoms that vary in severity from one individual to another and some patients may be highly functioning in life. The most common symptoms consist of underdeveloped interpersonal and social skills and impaired communication.

Best Buddies Qatar is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhance lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment.

In April 2012, Qatar marked the fifth annual World Autism Awareness Day when autism organizations around the world celebrate the occasion with unique events. The celebration every year as a global day to raise awareness about autism came in response to a proposal submitted by Qatar to the United Nations. The proposal was adopted by UN’s General Assembly on December 18, 2007.
The Shafallah Center has established a hotline number where parents, teachers and the general public can call to ask for information. The number is: +974 4495 6633, and specialists will be available to provide support and address questions and concerns relating to autism. A website has also been set up where people can find information, resources and seek advice. www.shafallahautism.org.

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