(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) All Emirati children with autism can hope to get timely treatment with the opening of a new centre as the UAE joined other countries in observing World Autism Day on Monday.
The Emirates International Autism Centre, to be located in Palm Jumeirah and set to open next year, will accommodate all 272 children and adults currently in the waiting list at other autism centres.
Currently, children who are diagnosed with autism find themselves in a long waiting list to receive a free rehabilitation service. Some have been waiting as long as 15 years for treatment. The other option left before families with such children is to choose costly private services.
An estimated Dh30,000 to Dh3.6 million per year is spent on treating and rehabilitating autistic children.
Apart from the limited number of service providers, some of the services at present are limited to certain age groups. For instance, the Dubai Early Child Development Centre serves children aged up to six years only. The Dubai Autism Centre located in Satwa can accept only up to 50 children.
Officials also say that despite the modern treatment methods being offered, the number of autistic children is increasing.
"We will focus on diagnosing all cases in the waiting list giving priority to UAE national families whose children are yet to enrol in specialised centres," said Fahad bin Al Shaikh, Deputy Chairman of Autism Trust Foundation that is setting up the centre in collaboration with the Community Development Authority (CDA).
"The establishment of a comprehensive centre of autism rehabilitation is a path-breaking achievement considering that needs for autism rehabilitation is growing in Dubai as well as the UAE," said Khaled Al Kamda, Director-General of the CDA. Research studies conducted in Japan, Denmark, China, the UK and the US show a steady increase in the disease lately. In the UK, the number increased from 0.11% in 1988 to 2.89% in 2001. Figures for the UAE are not available.