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Tribune News Network
There is no cure for autism – it is a lifelong condition – said experts at Qatar Foundation during a recent webinar titled “Autism: Comorbidities and Behavioral Challenges,” but intervention and treatment can improve long-term outcomes, especially if diagnosed early.    
The webinar was held as part of a wider series of collaborative discussions on autism taking place throughout April – which is Autism Awareness Month – bringing together experts from across Qatar Foundation (QF) to shed light on the developmental disorder that, according to the World Health Organization, affects approximately one in 100 children worldwide.  
“Please understand that there is no cure,” said Kimberly Hendon, Autism Specialist and Behavior Consultant, The Learning Center (TLC), part of QF’s Pre-University Education.
“It’s so hard. We get a lot of parents that come to us and ask about their child ‘When will he be normal?’, ‘When will this behavior stop?’, ‘When will he grow out of this?’. And it’s one of those questions we don’t put a timeframe on because we don’t have an answer. If we say ‘he’ll grow out of it’, that’s not a realistic truth for us to give to you.”
But, according to the specialists, intervention and treatment will have a significant impact on the condition. “The earlier the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, the better the prognosis, the better the result,” said Dr. Fouad Al Shaban, Senior Scientist at Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, (QBRI), part of QF member Hamad Bin Khalifa University.
“Diagnosing the condition within the first year of life is difficult but doable. If we diagnose it under the age of two, this is the best situation in terms of starting intervention and treatment.” 
Echoing Dr. Fouad, Hendon said: “The earlier that you get intervention, the more you can maximize the outcome of therapies and cater to all the needs that a person with autism may have. And having the appropriate diagnosis is just as important as early intervention.”
Every child has different needs, she explained, so it’s about assessing what a child needs in terms of services and treatments and constantly monitoring plans, because as a child progresses, new behaviors will appear – and sometimes they may regress. 
Roadmaps will change as a child gets older, Hendon added, as social skills in kindergarten are completely different at Grade 12 level when a young person is transitioning to life after school. 
“If you notice a certain therapy is not working, or you’re not seeing a certain level of change, have that communication; be your advocate for your child,” she said. “It is fine to try multiple therapies; there is not one approach that fits everything.” 
Among the schools under the portfolio of QF’s Pre-University Education are Renad Academy, which specializes in helping children with autism, and Awsaj Academy, which supports students with mild to moderate learning needs. 

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