Eight autistic children, two children with Down's syndrome and four visually-impaired children and 13 other children participated in the festival organized by Ailin Agahi, a social activist who has established the Downtism Cafe, which is managed by a number of young persons with autism and Down's syndrome.
“This is the first time in Iran a group of disabled children with their able-bodied counterparts entered a musical competition,” Agahi said.
The festival was organized to demonstrate that children with such challenges as autism can compete with other people in all activities,” she added.
She also noted that the festival was intended to raise people’s awareness of the challenges facing the disabled. “If they change their views of people with autism and Down’s syndrome, this can help a person have a happier life in society,” she added.
Jury member Majid Behbahani, who is also the director of the Honare Parseh Musical Education Center in Tehran, said, “I have a long career in musical education, so I know that teaching music to people with disabilities is really a labor of love.”
“I came across a video on the internet showing a musical performance by the students of Ms. Agahi,” Behbahani said, and added, “When she asked me to join her in the music festival, I enthusiastically agreed.”
Masud Nemati, another member of the jury who also teaches at the Tehran Conservatory, said, “Organizing such a festival helps increase the children’s motivation and can improve people’s perceptions of children with autism and Down’s syndrome.”
Winners will be determined in the final session of the festival in the upcoming weeks.