Under Professor Shirley Cohen’s mentorship I gave a presentation two weeks ago to a group of FAR Fellows associated with the Regional Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Hunter College. The title of my presentation was ‘Autism in the Nonwestern World’; I focused on the countries I have worked in. A large portion of my talk was dedicated to autism in Egypt and specifically the Advance Society. I am known to be a lively presenter and normally I maintain my professional demeanor which I try to keep ‘tear free’. I introduced the topic and when Egypt’s name came up I felt my throat tighten, heard my voice quiver and the tears started to fill my eyes. The more I told myself not to cry the harder it was. I eventually was able to continue speaking, but I was very embarrassed.
These were tears of gratitude, tears of nostalgia and tears of ‘this is why I am here’. I had also just seen a film featuring the new premises of the Advance Society in Cairo. At the end of the presentation I appologised for by tears. My colleagues kindly told me that my tears are a positive sign of my humanness and nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. More importantly however when they saw the building plans and heard about the description of the services that will be offered they said “although 14 years ago we (Egypt) was behind the western world regarding services for ASD people, the Advance Societies model is a model that we should be proud of as it is an example of integrated multidisciplinary services which should be adopted internationally.