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Every April, Egypt's great monuments turn blue. This woman's hard work is why.

She started the conversation almost 20 years ago, but now people are really listening.

On April 2, the pyramids of Giza were lit up a beautiful shade of blue. Why?

Photo by David Degner/Getty Images.

The pyramids are often lit up for a number of various holidays and causes. In this case, the bright blue lights shone in honor of Autism Awareness Month — marking a relatively recent recognition of the condition in Egypt.


Thanks to Dr. Dahlia Soliman, founder of the Egyptian Autistic Society, autism is finally being talked about openly there.

For the longest time, autism was considered taboo in Egypt. In some areas, it was even called a curse.

"In the rural areas, due to lack of education, when [people saw] a child/adult spinning or doing any of the stereotypical behavior displayed by an autistic person they [thought] this child is possessed," Solimon told Upworthy.

Soliman set out to change that notion 18 years ago, and as of today, the Egyptian Autistic Society (EAS) has diagnosed thousands of children as being "on the spectrum."

Egyptian children in the Egypt Autistic Society program. Image via Egypt Autistic Society/Facebook, used with permission.

The "spectrum" refers to the wide range of behaviors/symptoms a person can exhibit when they are autistic. Unfortunately, this can also make autism difficult to diagnose, which is why, early on, more than 80% of Soliman's patients had been misdiagnosed prior to coming to her.

"Very few doctors and specialists [had] heard of it. It is not taught in our university curriculums (not even in faculty of medicine)," Soliman explained.

One of the greatest challenges Soliman faced when opening the Egypt Autistic Society was getting approval for the group's name because it included the word "autistic" and officials had no idea what it meant.

EAS' main goal is to provide "early intervention" services that are uniquely tailored to each autistic child and their parents, but keeping a program like it running isn't easy — or cheap.

The younger a child is diagnosed, the more receptive they will be to programs that can help curb behavioral and social issues caused by autism. The hope is that such training will make it easier to "mainstream" autistic children in the Egyptian eduction system.

Image via Egyptian Autistic Society/Facebook, used with permission.

This has been exceedingly difficult, especially during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 when the administration kept changing.

Programs for people with autism are expensive for the average Egyptian family. EAS subsidizes tuition for one-third of its students, but such nonprofit work requires significant help from donors, beyond what grateful parents can give.

However, Soliman's meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been instrumental in raising funds and awareness. Fattah el-Sisi has connected EAS with a number of dignitaries, some of whom have personal connections to autism.

In March 2016, Admiral Mohab Mamish, head of the Suez Canal Authority, publicly declared that his grandson has autism. For a country that not long ago thought autism was possession, that's a huge step forward in reducing the stigma.

Getting Egypt's great monuments lit up in bright blue is, strangely enough, one of the most challenging aspects of Soliman's work to destigmatize autism.

"It is actually a huge hassle!" Soliman wrote in an email. "We have to write official formal letters to each minister or authority in charge of that particular monument. Then hand deliver it to the head of that authority and then nag by phone or in person that it gets put on his desk and he signs it!"

Photo by David Degner/Getty Images.

Despite the hassle, however, she's managed to light up at least one Egyptian landmark every year since 2012.

For Autism Awareness Month in 2016, 21 landmarks, including the pyramids, blazed blue.


While the bureaucracy might be a pain, Soliman says her work with the children makes it all worth it.

Photo via Dahlia Soliman/Facebook, used with permission.

According to her blog, from age 11 on, Soliman knew she wanted to work with children with special needs.

When asked why she loves working with autistic kids, she replied, "I love children in general, but special needs children to me are slightly more special. Each tiny bit of progress is like climbing mount everest and that fulfills me."

Keeping the conversation around autism moving forward in Egypt is of utmost importance.

Photo via Egyptian Autistic Society/Facebook, used with permission.

No matter where you're from, if you've had experience with autism, Soliman and the EAS are encouraging you to share your story using the hashtag #iamthefirststep.

They hope that if more Egyptians see how prevalent autism is around the world, and how manageable it can be, pretty soon the original stigma that once influenced the country to keep people living with autism hidden away will fall away entirely.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

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via Pexels

A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and producer Brad Falchuk, and photographer Annie Leibovitz and activist Susan Sontag are all high-profile couples who’ve embraced the LAT lifestyle.

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Family

Professional tidier Marie Kondo says she's 'kind of given up' after having three kids

Hearing Kondo say, 'My home is messy,' is sparking joy for moms everywhere.

Marie Kondo playing with her daughters.

Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up," has repeatedly made huge waves around the world since it came out in 2010. From eliminating anything that didn't "spark joy" from your house to folding clothes into tiny rectangles and storing them vertically, the KonMari method of maintaining an organized home hit the mark for millions of people. The success of her book even led to two Netflix series.

It also sparked backlash from parents who insisted that keeping a tidy home with children was not so simple. It's one thing to get rid of an old sweater that no longer brings you joy. It's entirely another to toss an old, empty cereal box that sparks zero joy for you, but that your 2-year-old is inexplicably attached to.

To be fair, Kondo never forced her way into anyone's home and made them organize it her way. But also to be fair, she didn't have kids when she wrote her best-selling book on keeping a tidy home. The reality is that keeping a home organized and tidy with children living in it is a whole other ballgame, as Kondo has discovered now that she has three kids of her own.

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Pop Culture

YouTube star MrBeast sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery to help them see again

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up."

YouTube star sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery

Blindness touches people's lives around the world and YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson, more popularly known as MrBeast, is trying to do something about it. Donaldson made it his mission to help 1,000 people regain their eyesight with the help of Dr. Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida.

Levenson has been operating a program called "Gift of Sight" for over 20 years. The program provides free cataract surgery to uninsured people who are legally blind for free, so long as they meet certain criteria. Levenson had never heard of Donaldson, and he almost hung up on him when the YouTube star called to ask about a partnership.

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up," Levenson told CNN.

After figuring out that Donaldson was indeed a real person who wanted to help others, the duo called around the Jacksonville area to determine the people who needed help the most. They got their list of clients from free clinics and homeless shelters, which covered the United States portion of the surgeries.

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A mom makes sensory sand by putting Cheerios in a blender.

A parenting influencer who goes by the name @ellethevirgo on TikTok has shared a brilliant hack that can turn a simple box of Cheerios into a fun sensory sand experience. The great part is that the sand is edible, so you don’t have to worry if your child puts some in their mouth, which they will inevitably do.

The recipe for Cheerios sensory sand is pretty simple:

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Gaël Monfils makes tennis a must-see.

Tennis isn't always the most entertaining sport to watch, especially if you're not particularly interested in seeing a ball get slapped across a net at 1,000,000 mph approximately 17,000 times. You could probably get whiplash or eye strain if you focused too hard on it. While some people love the sport, others need a little more than grunts and sneaker sounds to capture their attention.

If you're in the group of people who need to be entertained, look no further than Gaël Monfils, a professional French tennis player that has earned the nickname, "The Entertainer." Monfils turned pro in 2004 and has multiple championship matches under his belt, and yet he still takes the time to be...extra while playing.

In a compilation video uploaded to TikTok, we see the 36-year-old tennis player dancing after hitting the ball across the net just out of his opponent's reach. But of course, he also doesn't hit the ball like your average player, either. In one part of the video, Monfils jumps up extremely high and bicycle kicks as he hits the ball with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

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