Leading international experts in the field of autism research gathered in Almaty for the fourth Annual International Conference “Autism. World of Opportunities.”
The conference, jointly organized by the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation and Narxoz University, attracted over 500 in-person and 8,000 online participants over the course of two days (November 29th-30th).
Among the speakers were leading researcher and UCLA professor, Dr. Connie Kasari, Adelphi University professor and author, Dr. Stephen Shore, renowned scientist and author, Dr. Temple Gradin, and many more experts from Kazakhstan and around the world. Participants included psychiatrists, psychologists, neuroscientists, teachers, and parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Dr. Stephen Shore commented that, “such conferences are a great example of how people with autism can be involved in social activities.” He added that various topics concerning autism were discussed, including education, and that the conference is an important step towards improving the lives of autistic people.
One of the major topics of discussion was the early identification of autism, which is key to the successful integration of autistic people in society. In one of the conversations, Dr. Almaz Sharman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation, spoke with Dr. Joseph Buxbaum, Director of the Seaver Autism Center for Research, about new approaches for early diagnosis, such as the possibility of diagnosing autism by identifying genetic mutations in the family.
There is no official state program for the early diagnosis of autism in Kazakhstan yet. The Foundation’s activities in this field, including the annual conference, aim to address this issue. According to Dr. Almaz Sharman, “spreading awareness about the challenges that children and adults with autism face can lead to a more understanding society, and better integration and opportunities for autistic people in Kazakhstan.”
The program “Autism. One World for All,” though which the conference was organized, is the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation’s flagship project. The program was created in 2014 to provide support for families and improve the lives of autistic children. As of today, 11 “Asyl Miras” autism centers have been established across Kazakhstan, employing over 200 specialists trained by international experts. More than 14,000 autistic children have participated in the program so far.