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Dubai plans lifelong care for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder

International experts discuss steps needed to streamline systems of care for those suffering from ASD

Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai may soon have a formal system to provide lifelong comprehensive care for people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a senior official from Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital said.

Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the opening of the three-day International ASD Congress, Dr Ammar Humaid Al Banna, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, and head of the mental health centre at the hospital, said: “The details of the recommendations will be made public on World Autism Day on April 2.”

The International ASD Congress titled ‘Systems of Care for ASD’ began at Dubai Health Care City on Thursday. It features global and regional experts.

Al Banna added: “Right now, diagnosis, early intervention, therapies, school inclusion programme, vocational training for ASD children is all very fragmented. We would want all stakeholders to follow an integrated system of care. The hospital’s mental health team has been working closely with the Dubai Executive Council and other health care stakeholders towards creating this system.”

Elaborating on the financial burden of ASD, Dr Karim Al Munir from Boston Chidren’s Hospital and one of the panel speakers told Gulf News: “In the US, the lifetime expense on an individual with ASD is approximately $2.3 million [Dh8.4 million]. The US spends $236 billion annually on ASD and, by 2025, the expenditure is estimated to be $410 billion. However, these expenses can reap rich dividends if the money is invested in diagnosis, therapy, early intervention, community integration, vocational training, This investment which will eventually be not more than a nominal percentage of the country’s GDP, will pay off in terms of reducing the medical and non- medical cost of the condition and making the caregivers of the patients as well as the patients themselves more productive.”

Al Munir reiterated that, worldwide, the community and government have a bigger role to play in streamlining systems of care for those suffering from ASD.

Other speakers at the congress included Bennett Leventhal, world renowned expert on autism from University of California, San Francisco, Dr Hesham Hamoda (Boston Children’s Hospital), and Dr Valsamma Eapen from the University of New South Wales. In the next two days, the experts will explore the best practices in screening, detection, assessment and interventions for children with ASD, care pathways for children with ASD and the latest research methodology.