I Love Qatar has always shown its support for Autism and its awareness. This whole month, our logo will incorporate the Autism Awareness Month symbol to help create awareness on the subject of Autism, especially in Qatar.
Autism Awareness Month is celebrated every April for the whole month, since April 1970 when the Autism Society declared that this particular month would focus on awareness and acceptance of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and highlight difficulties and obstacles people with Autism and those living with Autism face on an almost daily basis. This year's theme is 'Let's spread it around...by sharing'. Throughout the month, autism-related activities and events take place around the world to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of ASD and those who are Autistic.
The symbol for this month is the 'puzzle ribbon' which is a ribbon made up of different coloured puzzle pieces and the aim of this month is to make the general public more aware of Autism and what it really is.
During the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in 2007, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Missned supported a resolution to fix a day to mark Autism around the world. The UNGA approved the resolution and the date of 2 April was set to mark World Autism Awareness Day within the already well-known National Autism Awareness Month every April. Besides, marking a specific day for Autism, the UNGA encouraged all member states to raise Autism awareness within their countries.
The first World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated on 2 April 2008 and in the 13 years since it was started, ASD awareness has spread rapidly and services have also improved for individuals with ASD and their families.
World Autism Day also goes one step further and celebrates the unique talents that many with Autism have.
According to ‘The Well-Being of Families Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Qatar’, a research conducted by the Doha International Family Institute:
“Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental disorder that affects approximately 1% of children worldwide. Children with Autism have difficulties in social interactions and communication and often engage in repetitive behaviours or have restricted interests. Autism typically develops early in childhood and persists throughout the lifespan.”
While there are many signs and symptoms of ASD, every individual is different and no two will indicate the same signs. Signs usually appear when the child is 2-3 years of age, but it can also be diagnosed as early as 18 months
The following Autism signs and symptoms are the most common:
According to a research conducted by the Hamad Bin Khalifa University's Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), 101 children out of every 1,000 children (5 – 12 years of age) in Qatar are Autistic. This indicates that the prevalence rate would be approximately 1.1%.
Though more research needs to be conducted on the subject, one thing is for sure and that is that Qatar is taking significant steps towards acknowledging the increased prevalence of Autism and the future looks bright for Autistic individuals and their families. With the help of the Qatar National Autism Plan, there are bound to be positive changes in the way Autism is perceived, Autism awareness and understanding in Qatar, and support for families.
The National Autism Plan was formulated in April 2017 and is the first such plan kind in the Gulf region. It was put together by various stakeholders, healthcare providers, the Qatari government, etc., and launched by His Excellency the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani What is even more encouraging is how committed the Government of Qatar and other healthcare providers are in putting in place support systems and improving health services for individuals with ASD.
The aim of this Plan is to improve the lives of those with ASD and their families and facilitate them to lead as normal lives as possible. It lists 44 goals that will be implemented by 2021 which concentrate on various programmes to increase public awareness, facilitate early diagnosis and improve the quality of interventions and services, as well as continuity of care and meaningful development in education and social participation.
A team of specialised professionals work together at HMC's Child Development Centre (CDC) to early identify and screen children who may have a high risk of ASD. This programme was established in collaboration with the Primary Health Care Corporation with the aim of ensuring the early identification of children with moderate to high risk of ASD and to empower and train parents and caregivers to best understand and provide the appropriate care and support required by Autistic children.
The programme only takes referrals only from Primary Health Care (Well Baby Clinics) or from HMC physicians.
The Qatar Autism Centre was established in October, 2010 under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (Educational Centers Department). It has two SEO certifications: ISO on quality control (9001:2008) and ISO in managing professional health and security (18001:2007). It provides consultancy, rehabilitation and educational services to children with ASD.
Qatar Foundation established the Renad Academy in 2016 to provide specialised education for children who have mild to moderate autism. The Academy accepts children between 3 and 7 years of age. With each year, the Academy is adding a higher grade level, and hope to be able to cater to Autistic students of all ages.
And in 2016, Qatar Foundation established Renad Academy, which currently provides specialized
education for children with mild to moderate autism, and accepts children aged 3-7 years. Every year, it
is adding a higher grade level, to ultimately reach the point where it serves students of all ages.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education has established the Rou'a Assessment and Advisory Centre to provide students with special needs guidance, assessment and support services. This includes those with Autism, mental and mobility disabilities, learning difficulties (reading, writing, attention dispersion), and severe behavioral disorders.
The Child Development Center (CDC) in Qatar was established in 2013 and is made up of a network of internationally qualified and licensed professionals who offer child-centred and evidence-based early detection, complete psychological assessments, treatment plans and intervention for children with developmental delays, including ASD.
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