Abu Dhabi

On the second of April, World Autism Awareness Day is celebrated, providing opportunities to raise awareness about this condition, commonly referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and to educate people about dealing with autism and its concepts, aiming for their integration to become active members of society.

Under the patronage of Khalid bin Zayed, the organization is hosting the international conference "Challenges and Solutions" on autism this month.

Abdullah Al Hameedan emphasized the importance of coordinating efforts and collaborating to increase awareness about autism spectrum disorders.

On the second of April, World Autism Awareness Day is celebrated, providing opportunities to raise awareness about this condition, commonly referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and to educate people about dealing with autism and its concepts, aiming for their integration to become active members of society.

Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination offers care and rehabilitation programs with internationally accredited standards for 462 registered students with autism in its care and rehabilitation centers in Abu Dhabi Emirate. Among them are 184 students at the Abu Dhabi Autism Center in Abu Dhabi, 120 students at the Al Ain Autism Center in Al Ain region, 71 students in agricultural rehabilitation, 37 students at the Zayed City Care and Rehabilitation Center, 17 students at the Abu Dhabi Care and Rehabilitation Center, 15 students at Ghayathi Care and Rehabilitation Center, three students at Sila Care and Rehabilitation Center, four students at Al Qua Care and Rehabilitation Center, five students at Al Mirfa Care and Rehabilitation Center, four students at Al Wagan Care and Rehabilitation Center, and two students at Al Ain Care and Rehabilitation Center.

On World Autism Awareness Day, the organization calls for concerted efforts and enhanced collaboration among all state institutions, especially research institutions, universities, and specialized scientific centers, to identify the reasons behind the accelerating spread of autism spectrum disorder, ways to prevent and mitigate its spread, and efforts to reduce its negative effects on affected children. This integrates the efforts of all with the services provided by care and rehabilitation centers for people of determination, including therapeutic, educational, and rehabilitative services for these groups.

The International Conference on Autism "Challenges and Solutions"

The International Autism Conference "Challenges and Solutions," under the gracious patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, is organized by the institution in collaboration and coordination with Lotus Holistic Group. The conference will be held in Abu Dhabi from April 27th to 30th, building upon the success of previous editions and continuing the achievements in the field of care and rehabilitation for various categories of people of determination, especially individuals with autism.

A specialized scientific journal

A specialized scientific journal will be announced on the opening day of the conference, sponsored, and supported by Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination. The journal will be dedicated to autism research, aiming to provide the best treatment methods and practices for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, to alleviate their suffering and empower them and their families for integration into society. This initiative aims to raise societal awareness about them. The journal highlights the importance of scientific responsibility, fulfilling the urgent need for a scientific platform to address current challenges and to disseminate the research findings to practitioners in various specialized centers. Additionally, the journal acknowledges the directives of the United Arab Emirates to maintain its leading position in humanitarian and social work without discrimination.

Mr. Abdullah Abdul Aleem Al Hameedan, the Secretary-General of Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, emphasizes that the UAE is committed to providing a dignified life for all segments of society, especially people of determination, including those with autism spectrum disorder. The country has established specialized centers for their care, rehabilitation, empowerment, and integration into society. Additionally, they are prioritized for prompt medical treatment in all state hospitals as recognition of their constructive contributions and their families' efforts to support them towards productivity. The UAE also provides them with parks that comply with global safety standards.

He further adds that as institutions, universities, and families, it is essential to recognize the responsibility we bear in serving and caring for people of determination, especially those with autism. This involves coordinating efforts, collaboration, and cooperation to increase awareness about autism spectrum disorders and their symptoms, enhance the role of individuals with autism, and work towards their integration and empowerment in society, as well as supporting their families.

Al Hameedan stresses the importance of linking academic research with the practical and realistic needs of society, particularly those of people of determination. This should be done within the context of the significant interest of all state institutions in enhancing their services, integrating them into society, and empowering them based on advanced scientific principles.

Abu Dhabi Autism Center

The Abu Dhabi Autism Center, located in the Za'afarana area of Abu Dhabi and affiliated with Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, provides a range of services for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the academic year 2023/2024, there are a total of 184 registered students, including 56 in early intervention programs and 128 with severe autism and additional disabilities.

The center's services include education and rehabilitation, early intervention, educational activities, and community activities such as entertainment, scientific programs, national and religious events, and humanitarian initiatives, both within and outside the country. These services also encompass sports, arts, music, assistive technology, and therapeutic interventions including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and additional rehabilitation services.

Aisha Saif Al Mansoori, the director of Abu Dhabi Autism Center, highlights autism spectrum disorder as a complex condition. She notes a significant increase in the number of individuals affected by autism in Abu Dhabi and the UAE. Autism affects 15 children per 10,000 births worldwide, typically diagnosed by the age of two and a half. Notably, it affects four boys for every girl, and the challenge is compounded when autism coexists with intellectual disabilities, as 75% of individuals with autism reportedly experience concurrent intellectual disabilities.

Children with autism often exhibit unusual behaviors such as social isolation, lack of eye contact, repetitive movements, inability to sense pain, resistance to change, and aversion to hugs. For those with severe autism, aggression and unexplained bouts of anger may occur.

Abu Dhabi Autism Center is equipped with various facilities including classrooms, music education rooms with musical instruments, academic classrooms, a sports hall, and a restaurant serving healthy meals. The center also features outdoor play areas. Swimming is utilized as a therapeutic intervention, facilitated by a dedicated pool.

The center accepts Emirati students with autism aged three to five years in the early intervention department, and those aged five to fifteen years in the autism spectrum department. Individuals above fifteen years old are enrolled in the rehabilitation department.

Therapeutic interventions at the center involve behavior modification techniques, assistive technology, specialized educational programs, and the use of advanced devices and modern teaching techniques, including smart boards. The center offers seven accredited services, including assessment and diagnosis, early intervention, education, training and rehabilitation, healthcare, social integration, psychological counseling, and employment support.

Al Mansoori emphasizes that therapeutic programs are tailored to each age group and individual's specific needs, utilizing internationally accredited and standardized programs such as TEACCH, LOVAS, PECS, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). These programs are customized based on each child's strengths and weaknesses, forming the cornerstone of all therapeutic processes and associated treatment plans for autism spectrum disorder.

Al Ain Autism Center
Mouza Ahmed Al Salami, the director of Al Ain Autism Center affiliated with Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, states that the center provides services to 120 students, including 24 in early intervention programs and 96 with autism. The center annually participates in activities for World Autism Awareness Month. In 2016, it was transformed from a unit into a center to serve a significant segment of Al Ain's population in need of specialized care for children with autism spectrum disorder.

His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, inaugurated the new headquarters of Al Ain Autism Center in Al Ain City in November 2020. The facility, covering an area exceeding 10,000 square meters, was completed by the Abu Dhabi General Services Company "Musanada" at a cost of approximately 69 million dirhams.

Regarding autism, Mouza Al Salami defines it as a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication deficits, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. Autism is one of three disorders falling under the autism spectrum disorder, with the other two being Asperger's syndrome, characterized by cognitive and linguistic developmental delays, and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). Diagnosis is made when the criteria for autism or Asperger's syndrome are not met, according to the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria.

She emphasizes that there are various means of integrating children with autism into society, with the first step being to educate and raise awareness about autism within the community in general and the educational community in particular. Efforts are focused on socially integrating students with autism into various classroom and extracurricular activities with their peers in government schools. There is an emphasis on encouraging students to accept and understand their peers with autism, including their symptoms and associated behaviors.
Page Last Update: 03 April 2024
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