Saudi center helps families of autistic children cope with COVID-19 challenges

The Autism Center of Excellence (ACE) has launched a number of innovative programs designed to help families in Saudi Arabia with autistic children. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Saudi center helps families of autistic children cope with COVID-19 challenges

  • It aims to be one of the leading regional, independent, nonprofit organizations in its field by providing excellent rehabilitation services

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.


Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

Updated 01 October 2020

Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

  • It will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools

JEDDAH: Violations of Saudi Arabia’s anti-sexual harassment laws could be punished by “naming and shaming” following a decision by the Kingdom’s Shoura Council to approve a defamation penalty.

The council voted in favor of the penalty during its session on Wednesday after previously rejecting the move in March this year.

Council member Latifah Al-Shaalan said the proposal to include the penalty was sent by the Saudi Cabinet.

Saudi lawyer Njood Al-Qassim said she agrees with the move, adding that it will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools.

“The penalty will be imposed according to a court ruling under the supervision of judges, and according to the gravity of the crime and its impact on society,” Al-Qassim told Arab News.

“This will be a deterrent against every harasser and molester,” she said.

Al-Qassim said that legal experts are required to explain the system and its penalties to the public.

“The Public Prosecution has clarified those that may be subject to punishment for harassment crimes, including the perpetrator, instigator and accessory to the crime, the one who agreed with the harasser, malicious report provider, and the person who filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit,” she added.

“The Public Prosecution also confirmed that attempted harassment requires half the penalty prescribed for the crime,” said Al-Qassim.

In May 2018, the Shoura Council and Cabinet approved a measure criminalizing sexual harassment under which offenders will be fined up to SR100,000 ($26,660) and jailed for a maximum of two years, depending on the severity of the crime. 

In the most severe cases, where the victims are children or disabled, for example, violators will face prison terms of up to five years and/or a maximum penalty of SR300,000.

Incidents that have been reported more than once will be subject to the maximum punishment. 

The law seeks to combat harassment crimes, particularly those targeting children under 18 and people with special needs.

Witnesses are also encouraged to report violations and their identities will remain confidential.

The law defines sexual harassment as words or actions that hint at sexuality toward one person from another, or that harms the body, honor or modesty of a person in any way. It takes into account harassment in public areas, workplaces, schools, care centers, orphanages, homes and on social media.

“The legislation aims at combating the crime of harassment, preventing it, applying punishment against perpetrators and protecting the victims in order to safeguard the individual’s privacy, dignity and personal freedom which are guaranteed by Islamic law and regulations,” a statement from the Shoura Council said.

Council member Eqbal Darandari, who supports the law, said on Twitter that the defamation penalty has proven its effectiveness in crimes in which a criminal exploits a person’s trust.

“The defamation of one person is a sufficient deterrent to the rest,” she said.

Social media activist Hanan Abdullah told Arab News the decision “is a great deterrent for every harasser since some fear for their personal and family’s reputation, and won’t be deterred except through fear of defamation.”

The move will protect women from “uneducated people who believe that whoever leaves her house deserves to be attacked and harassed,” she said.

“Anyone who is unhappy with this decision should look at their behavior.”