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DOHA: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) are participating in the celebration of World Autism Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day, which falls onApril 2.

It is noteworthy that Qatar has played an important role in raising awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the international level.

In 2007, HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser supported the campaign, calling for World Autism Awareness Day during the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, which all United Nations Member States unanimously approved.

In addition to designating April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day, the resolution encouraged Member States to take the necessary measures to raise awareness about autism in their communities.

Within the framework of the awareness campaign to celebrate World Autism Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day, MoPH and its partners are participating in organizing many awareness events aimed at enhancing understanding, acceptance, and communication among all participants through a set of carefully planned activities, focusing on supporting people with autism significantly, creating a positive and supportive atmosphere for families with children with autism, raising awareness about autism, and lighting MoPHs HQ and several health facilities in blue during the celebration.

Director of the Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention Programs Dept at MoPH Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Hamad Al Thani said that strengthening cooperation between the health sector and the concerned authorities in Qatar contributes to improving the quality of services provided to people with autism and increasing accessibility, inclusion, and support for services dedicated to them.

He added that MoPH pays special attention to people with ASD, as the Ministry is keen to cooperate with its partners to work on improving the lives of people with ASD and their families in Qatar.

Health Leader of the National Autism Plan at MoPH Dr Nouf Al Siddiqi said: "The activities and events organized by the health sector in Qatar on the occasion of the World Autism Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day contribute to promoting awareness building and providing valuable insights and information about autism, to promote greater understanding and deeper empathy for people with autism, stressing that comprehensive awareness and education based on scientific evidence is an essential step to integrate people with autism into society."

She added that MoPH, in cooperation with the Qatar Foundation, through the Rafad training program, will organize a virtual workshop on April 27 to educate parents of people with autism and the public. Registration to participate in the workshop will be through Awsaj Academy.

Assistant Medical Director for Child and Adolescent Health Services at PHCC Dr Sadriya Al Kooheji said that the Healthy Child clinics in PHCC's health centres provide ASD screening services for young children at the age of 18 and 30 months, stressing that correct rehabilitation starts with early detection of ASD.

She added: The comprehensive and specialized rehabilitation of autism includes diagnosis, speech therapy, occupational and movement therapy, behavioural, special education, and many others, stressing that the integrated support plan for people with autism with from early detection, then diagnosis and rehabilitation, school, and community integration and later occupational.

Dr Ammar Hussain Abu Shaheen, clinical leader of the Therapeutic Autism Program at HMC's (Al Maha Children's Specialty Care Center), said: "Medical, psychological, and educational interventions, from early childhood to lifelong, contribute to improving the health, well-being, and quality of life of people with autism, improving their ability to communicate effectively and socially interact and ensuring that they benefit from health and education services and opportunities and support them throughout their lives, stressing the importance of designing interventions for these people and providing them with the participation of their families to ensure that the benefit of these services is maximized.

He added: "Al Maha Children's Specialty Care Center at HMC provides specialized health care for children with autism or special needs who need long-term and urgent specialized care, and through the centre they provide for their medical needs in one location.

It is noteworthy that autism is a lifelong condition that affects how an individual communicates and interacts with others, and how he perceives the world around him. The term "autism spectrum" is used to describe this condition because people with autism are affected in different ways, varying degrees, and the cause in most cases is unknown.

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