Dubai: The Ministry of Community Development has registered 4,561 autism cases in the UAE, according to data shared by the government body. Out of this number, 885 are females and the remaining 3,676 are males, who constitute 80 per cent of the total autism cases registered. Emirati citizens with autism touched 2,004, representing 44 per cent of the overall number of cases in the UAE.
According to data shared by the Ministry of Community Development, there are 72 specialised centres for education and rehabilitation of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) all over the UAE. About 1,667 students affected by the condition are admitted in the centre and provided with various rehabilitation, educational and therapeutic services. The ministry is authorised to issue licences to private centres in the UAE for treatment of students of different nationalities. These centres provide special education and supporting therapeutic services while others provide vocational rehabilitation and early intervention services.
Coinciding with the Autism Awareness Month in April, the Ministry of Community Development has launched a series of initiatives under the theme ‘Inclusive Quality Education for All’. The idea is to make the community disseminate inclusive education, empower people with ASD through several initiatives that reinforce the ministry’s vision of achieving the best education for this category of people, based on the national policy for persons with ASD. The ministry is to support both parents and families associated with autism centres in the country.
Last April, the UAE Cabinet had approved the ‘National Policy for People with Autism Disorder Spectrum’ under the ‘United for Autism’ vision to provide an integrated system of unified procedures and easy-access services to persons with ASD.
Nasser Ismail, Assistant Undersecretary of Social Welfare at the Ministry of Community Development, stated that the most prominent services provided to students with ASD include diagnosis, detection and early intervention. This is done in accordance with tests and standards that are globally approved.
Classes are conducted for students to support sensory, functional language treatment and to correct speech disorders to develop children’s communication abilities. Other services such as behavioral therapy to help children face different situations and assist them to adapt and learn are offered as well. Encouraging sports, recreational and musical activities are also encouraged through the inclusion of these activities for children.
Outdoor activities such as swimming, therapeutic horse riding, family counselling and training services to empower families to participate in the rehabilitation and training process, and pre-vocational rehabilitation services to prepare students for future careers are also conducted.
Wafa Bin Sulaiman, Director of Welfare and Rehabilitation Department at the Ministry of Community Development, announced that the Ministry of Community Development will launch the Autism Guide that explains facts and procedures for people with autism and organise a forum during Ramadan to support people with ASD and their parents. The ministry will also launch, through its website, the autism platform that contains 55 thorough and rich social stories issued over the past years, covering various social situations that people with ASD are likely to face, based upon the demands of parents.
Bin Sulaiman said: “The theme of celebrating World Autism Awareness Day, ‘Inclusive Quality Education for All’, coincides with the fourth goal of UN Sustainable Development about ‘education for all’, including inclusive education for people of determination, which is increasingly becoming important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”