TheFace: Asma Alsaleh, senior Saudi autism specialist and researcher

TheFace: Asma Alsaleh, senior Saudi autism specialist and researcher
Asma Alsaleh. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 26 April 2019

TheFace: Asma Alsaleh, senior Saudi autism specialist and researcher

TheFace: Asma Alsaleh, senior Saudi autism specialist and researcher
  • When I reflect on my life, I can attribute all my successes to the unconditional love and support of my family

I was born into a family that valued education more than anything else.

My parents did everything possible to ensure that my four siblings and I could follow our passions and chosen fields.

Being a middle child in a Saudi family, I had to negotiate to get what I wanted, and that not only made me a goal-getting person but also developed my leadership skills.

Early on, from elementary to high school, I was an excellent student and managed to graduate with a high score which gave me many options to consider in regard to college applications.

Out of my sheer love for children and a curiosity about autism, majoring in special education at King Saud University (KSU) was the obvious choice.

January 2011 marked both my graduation from KSU and the beginning of my career as an autism specialist in the Center for Autism Research (CFAR) at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSH&RC) in Riyadh.

I was fortunate to be one of the first CFAR appointments and I helped build the team and develop its overall vision and mission.

I worked with a multidisciplinary team to conduct assessments, diagnoses, and interventions, and as an aspiring autism specialist, I was focused on expanding my knowledge and cultivating experiences in the field.

This led me to obtain certification in Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2) and Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), both considered to be the gold standard in diagnostic evaluations for autism.

This made me the first Saudi research-reliable therapist in ADOS-2, in addition to becoming a certified therapist in the Early Start Denver Model (a behavioral therapy for autistic children aged between 12 and 48 months).

In 2016, I was fortunate to embark on yet another wonderful and challenging journey. I decided to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland. Learning is a continuous process especially in a field where new methods and tools are being discovered and updated all the time.

On a personal note, for someone that appreciates strong family ties, having to live abroad without my family was extremely difficult.

By 2017, after writing a thesis titled “Quality of Life Among Mothers of ASD Children in Saudi Arabia,” I obtained my master’s degree in psychological studies. I was appointed as a senior autism specialist and scientific project supervisor upon my return to KFSH&RC.

Aside from an incredibly busy career, I strive to be fit and ensure I do a workout at least three times a week. I also took up gardening as a hobby, which has helped enhance my well-being.

When I reflect on my life, I can attribute all my successes to the unconditional love and support of my family.