Qatar prioritises support for children with learning delays & disabilities: Sheikha Alia May 15, 2022 0 0 12345 QNA New YorkQatar prioritises support to children with developmental delays and disabilities, Permanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations HE Sheikha Alia Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani has said.In her opening speech at a virtual event organised by the missions of Poland and Turkey, the ‘Autism Speaks’ organisation, the UNICEF and Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), to discuss digital health for children with developmental delays and disabilities, Sheikha Alia Ahmed said, “We want to see these children get the same start in life as any other child or as adults who enjoy the same opportunities and live healthy and independent lives within their communities.”She pointed out that Qatar was one of the first countries in the region and the world to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008, which was adopted in 2006.“Qatar is one of the few countries in the region that has appropriate laws, policies and institutions to fully respond to the needs of persons with disabilities and promote their full integration into society,” she added, stressing that Qatar remained a leading country in research, development and innovation that benefits people with disabilities.She highlighted the pioneering research conducted at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a member of Qatar Foundation, on artificial intelligence and machine learning as key drivers of innovation in many industries.Sheikha Alia explained that the research capabilities of HBKU are working to introduce technology innovations such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve learning and attention of children with autism spectrum disorder.The sessions of the virtual meeting were moderated by Vice-President and Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks Dr Andy Shih, Acting Associate Director and Chief of Health Programme at UNICEF Dr Luwei Pearson, Assistant Professor and Director of Interdisciplinary Programmes at the College of Science and Engineering at HBKU HE Sheikha Dr Dina Al Thani, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania Dr Julia Parish Morris, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences and Director of Duke Center for Autism Dr Geraldine Dawson and Assistant Professor at HBKU Dr Marwa Qaraqe.Dr Dina Al Thani reviewed the programme she is working on at HBKU in dealing with children with developmental delays and disabilities, and the innovation she has reached with her team.She concluded that with the developments in the field of AI and other technological developments like the brain-computer interface, natural language processing and image and sound recognition, the world has a greater opportunity to be more inclusive.“Hamad Bin Khalifa University, UNICEF and the Autism Speaks are planning to create a ‘global digital health platform for children with developmental delays and disabilities,” Dr Dina said, adding that the goal of the global platform is to promote health services and innovations.She added that the platform would provide areas for identifying and assessing the needs of these children, as well as providing an opportunity for monitoring and interventions, and may also contribute to the development of a mixture of medical knowledge and solutions provided by technology.For her part, Dr Qaraqe reviewed the possibilities that digital health and AI applications can offer to determine the capabilities of intelligence, awareness, memory, diagnose early mental disorders, and provide solutions for child health. She concluded that with the development of technology and the endless opportunities that AI and machine learning offer, it is now more important than ever to enable digital health to support children with developmental delays and disabilities.Malgorzata Groblina, representative of the Polish GEM Foundation, called for responsibility to push the use of IA, machine learning and technology to expand areas of research in order to improve the lives of people with autism. She stressed that “the priority should be how to use the advantages of algorithms and data mining to create a better world for people with autism.” On the other hand, Professor of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Head of Autism Department at the Turkish Ministry of Health Dr Enver Burak Dorsum reviewed the Ministry of Health’s national plans to support children with developmental disorders through the use of digital health applications. He stressed the need to discuss what should be done to expand the scale and scope of work in the field of digital health in order to reach new models to improve the lives of people with developmental delays and disabilities.The event highlighted the digital health gaps where there are no opportunities to identify and provide early and timely care, support and interventions for children with developmental delays and disabilities.The participants concluded that the use of digital health, artificial intelligence and machine learning applications would contribute to bridging these gaps and the IUCN platform may help identify and assess the needs of children with developmental delays and disabilities, not only in high-income countries but in developing and least developed countries. 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