Efforts to integrate autistic children in Oman’s society

Energy Monday 01/April/2019 21:14 PM
By: Times News Service
Efforts to integrate autistic children in Oman’s society

Muscat: Oman has come a long way in the care and services it provides to autistic children, according to an official from the Oman Autism Society.
Today, April 2, 2019 marks World Autism Day, and to mark the occasion, Ali Al Namaani, Secretary General of the Oman Autism Society, spoke to Times of Oman about the progress the Sultanate has made with regards to its understanding on autism.
“In the past few years, we have worked hard to change the perception of autism in people’s minds. Five years ago, the services provided to autistic children were limited. Autism was a stigma to some, and parents used to be ashamed and might hide the fact they had an autistic child.”
Oman Autism Society was established in February 2014 and since then the association has helped abolish the stigma against children with autism, by giving parents a place where they can learn about condition.
“There has been a noticeable increase in the integration of autistic children in both private and government schools,” Al Namaani said.
“We have used all the means open to us, such as social media, television and radio to increase awareness within families and among communities.”
Al Namaani added, “We have been setting up workshops, seminars and lectures at Smart Training Centre to educate parents about autism and help them to deal with their autistic child.
Currently, there are 27 government centres called “Al Wafa” for disabled children, and another 31 in the private sector. Despite the increase in centres related to autism, Al Namaani says the issue now is one of location.
“Almost 60 per cent of the centres are in Muscat which is something that we are trying to change, because it means that services are too centralised. There are many wilayats that don’t have any services for autistic children,” Al Namaani added. Oman Autism Society has plans to open an innovative school for autistic children.
“One of our future projects is Al Hayah school for autistic children. It will be the first in Oman and we plan to install state of the art technology and equipment that will help in the development of each child, in addition to trained staff who specialise in dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder cases.
“As an NGO we continuously need support from the private and public sector in our work. We hope that Ministries will ease the opening of such centres. We also hope that the private sector would support the much-needed programmes related to autism.
According to the Ministry of Social Development, there are 2,235 children enrolled in Wafa centres for the rehabilitation of disabled children. Overall, there are 27 centres throughout the Sultanate that provide daytime care to children between the ages of 2-14, 5 days a week.
These centres care for children with visual, hearing and physical disabilities, as well as Down Syndrome and autism.