GCC set to develop strategy to tackle autism

Muscat: The Gulf countries will develop a strategy to tackle Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disorders.

A recommendation in this regard was made at the First Gulf Autism Conference held under the auspices
of Dr Madeeha bint Ahmed al Shaibaniyah, Minister of Education, which concluded at the Oman
Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) on Sunday.

“ASD is spreading in various parts of the world and related statistics are varying from one country to another. Therefore, paying attention to children with ASD and fostering efforts must be provided by a number of government and civil authorities,” Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Minister of Health, said.

The conference also recommended improving the current local and Gulf ASD strategies, enabling the
parents of children with ASD on how to deal with those children and the rehabilitation methods. It also
made discussion on developing Gulf strategies for experience exchange, as well as strengthen the capabilities of the concerned people to deal with the ASD through practical training based
on scientific basics and utilising the global experts in this field also have been the outcomes of the first of its kind conference.

Earlier, speaking to the Observer, Khalid al Malki, board member of the Oman Autism Society (OAS), said that there are between 12,000 to 15,000 autistic children in the Sultanate.

Additionally, the ratio of incidence of this genetic disease is that one in 50 children has been identified as autistic, which is only a representative figure of the international prevalence of the same.
Cases of ASD are more prevalent among children between 3 to 15 years old.

“Although there are no fixed statistics data available on the number of autistic cases, Oman has anything between 12,000 to 15,000 cases, based on the international prevalence of the cases because one child out of 50 is autistic.”

He added that the same was for some 5,000 cases as per the study conducted by Dr Yahya al Farsi in 2012 but the number increased at par with global incidence.

Organised by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in cooperation of
the Ministry of Social Development, Unicef Office, Muscat and the King Salman Center for Disability Research, the three-day First Gulf Autism Conference is supported by the Gulf Health Council and was attended by over 1,000 participants from across the world.