Posted on April 16, 2018

Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Child Development Center will present the first in a series of autism awareness seminars for healthcare professionals later this month. The Autism Awareness Seminar for Health Professionals will be held on Tuesday, 24 April at Hajar Auditorium, HMC’s Medical Education Center.

Caregivers of patients with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have often remarked that many health professionals lack awareness and understanding of the condition. They have expressed concern over how a lack of understanding can impair the effective delivery of care to the autistic patient population.

Dr. Nazim Abdel Aati, Pediatric Consultant, Child Development Center and Therapy Services and HMC’s Autism Program Director, explained: “For many patients with an ASD, a trip to the hospital (emergency, outpatient, or inpatient setting), optician, or dentist can be extremely stressful. Many of these patients have difficulties with communication and the unfamiliar environment and activities may cause them to experience sensory overload. This can manifest itself through challenging behavior that can make it difficult for the health professional to conduct their diagnosis or administer treatment.”

HMC’s Child Development Center 2 [].jpgPhysicians, nurses, and allied health professionals can sometimes find encounters with patients with autism challenging. The condition is characterized by a combination of impaired social interactions, difficulties with communication, and repetitive behaviors. Ms. Fatima Mustafa, Assistant Director Pediatric Rehabilitation at HMC, says healthcare providers’ incorrect assumptions about individual patients’ skills or needs can create a negative experience for some patients with autism.

“Some healthcare providers may have misconceptions about persons with autism and may be insufficiently trained in dealing with the behaviors exhibited by some of their patients who have an ASD. Health professionals should be mindful of the disability aspects of autism, and their behavior should help meet the needs of their patients and reduce their level of stress. The good thing is that those who are willing can learn how to modify their own practice so they are able to provide the right care to someone with autism.”

The planned awareness seminars are designed to highlight approaches healthcare professionals can adopt when caring for patients with autism. The seminars will provide guidance on typical behaviors exhibited by patients with autism and will offer practical tips on how healthcare professionals can effectively care for patients with an ASD.

“We have developed a series of educational talks for healthcare professionals who may come into contact with a child or an adult with an ASD but may not have the tools or strategies to effectively communicate with these patients,” said Mr. Hossam Mehana, Senior Behavioral Psychologist and Autism Program Coordinator at the Child Development Center. “This educational event is accredited by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners (QCHP) and will provide valuable continuing professional development (up to 3 CPD points) to anyone looking to equip themselves with a deeper understanding of autism. The seminars will enable these care providers to better relate to their patients in the course of their work.”

“We know there is a high demand for this type of training, from dentists, ophthalmologists, social workers, teachers, therapists, and other professionals who come into contact with individuals who have autism but don’t necessarily know the best way to serve them. We have developed an educational plan that is designed to help these professionals provider better, more person-centered care to their patients,” Mr. Mehana added.

Each month the Child Development Center sees approximately 40 new referrals for a possible ASD diagnosis, most of which are primary health center referrals. The number of children diagnosed with ASD in 2017 was 363; the Child Development Center managed the care of 610 children with ASD last year.