Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) has opened a new autism centre serving 24 children who enrolled a year ago, Gulf News has learnt.
Even though the New England Centre for Children - Abu Dhabi (NECC-AD) has been receiving autistic children since last year the formal opening was on Tuesday.
"The opening of the new autism centre not only marks a new educational opportunity for children with autism and their parents, it also signals our continuing commitment to provide state-of-the-art services to our community," said Dr Ahmad Al Mazroui, Chairman of the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad) and Seha at the opening ceremony.
Autism is a disorder that affects children's social and emotional behavioural development. Young children with autism do not learn from their environments as do normal children. This hinders their development.
Most autistic children have difficulty learning language and social behaviour and may engage in repetitious or unusual behaviour.
Many autistic children will learn when given highly structured, consistent and repetitious instruction that requires them to participate actively in their instruction.
Dr Daniel Gould, Clinical Director of the NECC-AD, did not have statistics on how many autistic cases exist in the UAE.
However, he told Gulf News that the prevalence of autism varies across the world from one out of 150 to one out of 200 children. "In many countries autism statistics are fairly consistent and there's no reason to believe that the UAE is any different," he added.
Children between three and nine can be admitted to the programme.
"We're currently giving Emirati children priority. However, it's open to everyone and we're looking forward to accommodating non-nationals, but the exact timing for that is hard to determine now," he said.
A key part of the NECC-AD mission is to provide outreach, professional development and training opportunities for those who want to utilise autism treatments.
"We will open two additional classrooms between now and next September and will add 12 more children to the programme. This will give us a total of 36 occupied seats, which is our maximum capacity till we move into a new building," he told Gulf News.
NECC-AD is staffed with a combination of professionals from its US facilities as well as Arabic speakers from the Gulf region.
Although most instruction is in English, the programme provides basic Arabic language instruction and culture training for the children as their development allows.