DUBAI 27 April 2021: Hessa Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, has stated that the “National Policy for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder” will help provide the best supporting and empowering services for people of determination in general and persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in particular, by providing specific requirements and needs to ensure the best quality of life for these segments.
She noted that the policy aligns with the leadership’s vision to empower people of determination and the government’s efforts to support them through policies, initiatives and legislations.
In mid-April, the Cabinet approved the policy, under the “United for Autism” vision, to provide an integrated system of unified procedures and standards to provide persons with ASD with easy-access services, facilitate and ensure their inclusion across all educational institutions and walks of life, train more qualified professionals, and strengthen community awareness.
Buhumaid revealed that the policy includes 14 initiatives across five pillars, namely, diagnosis, healthcare, human resources, inclusive education, and community awareness and empowerment.
These initiatives include the autism diagnosis manual; a national developmental screening program; opening early intervention centers across the country; developing specialized programs for teachers, such as professional diplomas and training programs. Other initiatives include an autism awareness online platform, a family empowerment program, an inclusive education policy, an inclusive transition manual; creating an assistant teacher position in public education; providing support services for students with ASD; and programs covering professional rehabilitation, cultural and sports inclusion, and career empowerment.
Buhumaid stated that, according to the database of the Ministry of Community Development, the number of people of determination in the UAE has reached 27,000 of both citizens and residents, while the number of persons with ASD is 3,227, representing 12 percent of the total number of people of determination.
She added that the number of students with ASD has reached 898, while the number of UAE-based centers for people of determination reached 95, 26 of which are government centers. There are also 70 comprehensive services centers, 61 government and private centers that serve autism categories, and 25 centers that provide individual sessions for people of determination, including autism.
The national policy was based on legislative grounds that support and empower people of determination in the UAE, including several relevant laws and policies.
The policy empowers persons with ASD and enhances their wellbeing, with a commitment to standardize procedures between relevant authorities and service providers to ensure accurate diagnosis and quality of rehabilitation, and hire and train qualified national professionals to diagnose and rehabilitate persons with autism, as well as provide clear educational and functional pathways for persons with autism.
The National Policy for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the UAE draws on some of the best global practices serving this segment, such as the “2010 Adult Autism Strategy” and “Think Autism Strategy” in the UK, Canada’s “Roadmap to a National Autism Strategy”, and the “Strategic Plan 2016-2020” of the Autism Society of America.