#IAmTheFirstStep raises autism awareness – and attracts criticism

Published March 14th, 2016 - 12:39 GMT
Youssra and Tamer Hagras spend the day at the Egyptian Autistic Society for Autism Awareness in 2014 (Twitter / @Autismegypt )
Youssra and Tamer Hagras spend the day at the Egyptian Autistic Society for Autism Awareness in 2014 (Twitter / @Autismegypt )

An Egyptian organisation is raising awareness of the struggles of children with autism – by encouraging people to share how they’ve helped individuals with it.

The Egyptian Autism Society’s #IAmTheFirstStep campaign, launched for Autism Awareness Month, asks Egyptians to share how they have affected the life of a child with autism.  It hopes to improve people’s acceptance of the disorder in Egypt, where people with autism often suffer from marginalisation and discrimination.  

EAS implores readers to “Take the first step to understanding Autism... After all, the first step is you.”

Participating in the campaign, Khaled Dahawy at the American University in Cairo described meeting a student with autism, while a preschool discussed trying non-traditional teaching methods. Others using the hashtag shared that they had donated iPads to children or helped people with autism learn MS Word.

#IamthefirststepUrban Toddlers Preschool is proud to have learned from Autistic children and their parents the joys of...

Posted by Urban Toddlers Child Development Preschool on Saturday, 12 March 2016


My name is Khaled Dahawy, I'm the VIce President of Enrollment Management and Student Life at the American University in...

Posted by Khaled Dahawy on Wednesday, 9 March 2016

I taught a few autistic boys to type on the computer, in MS Word, i was surprised how quickly the learnt where the different letters are on the keyboard, an where to find punctuation marks#IAmthefirststep an

Posted by Mohab Refaat on Thursday, 10 March 2016

But the campaign didn’t impress everyone. Twitter user @QueenQahira called the campaign “absolute garbage”, arguing it suggested users should be praised for “treating people with autism with basic dignity and respect”.

Because of this stupid ass #IamTheFirstStep shit people are posting on facebook about that one time they bought my brother an ice cap” she said.



 Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects an individual’s ability to communicate and interact with the outside world. Although there are no statistics on its prevalence in Egypt specifically, it’s estimated to affect about one in 500 people.

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