RIYADH: The Autism Center of Excellence (ACE) has launched a number of innovative programs designed to help families in Saudi Arabia with autistic children cope with the challenges they are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of these initiatives, called I Can Train My Child, provides families with instructions and insight into how to educate their children and ensure their safety and health.
“We have served more than 50 amazing families from all 13 regions (of the Kingdom), who attended a one-hour (online) session for 12 weeks, during which they were trained on how to create learning opportunities for their loved ones with autism spectrum disorder (ASD),” said Faisal Al-Nemary, the center’s chief operating officer and a board-certified behavior analyst, who has more than 15 years’ experience as a clinician and researcher. The programs were specially designed in response to the needs arising from the coronavirus outbreak.
The center works to empower people with ASD to lead productive lives, and helps to improve their integration into society by raising acceptance and social awareness. It aims to be one of the leading regional, independent, nonprofit organizations in its field by providing excellent rehabilitation services and contributing to research on ASD, he added.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We aim to work with our national and international collaborating entities not only to provide high-quality services at the ACE, but also to contribute to enhancing the ecosystem by creating an engine that will produce the next generation of practitioners and researchers in the field.”
The services provided by the ACE includes the training of professionals and support for families by raising community awareness of ASD, in addition to vocational rehabilitation and housing solutions, said Al-Nemary.
The organization was founded as part of a joint social-corporate responsibility initiative between the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, with support from Saudi banks.
Autism, or ASD, refers to a wide range of conditions characterized by diminished social-communication skills, along with repetitive behaviors and narrowed interests. It is a life-long condition that affects millions of people and their families worldwide. It is estimated one person in 160 has some form of ASD. However, some national studies in the US, the UK and South Korea suggest the true rate might be higher.