Parents complain from short support for autistic children in Saudi Arabia

Parents of autistic children in Saudi Arabia claimed they are not getting enough financial and moral support from education institutes and authorities. (File photo: Reuters)

Parents of autistic children have claimed they are not getting enough financial and moral support from education institutes and authorities.

Autism is a neural disorder that is difficult for families to detect and can prevent children from being able to enjoy their childhood.

Um Mohammad noticed her son was behaving different from his friends and siblings and felt “numbing pain” when the doctor told her that he was autistic.

Um Mohammad said: “It is difficult to describe my suffering. I have difficulty communicating with him and I do not know what he wants.

“Sometimes he goes through an anger period that lasts for two to three hours and he is beating and biting and kicking those around him.

“I am tired of his condition and of the way society looks at him.

“However, my biggest concern is with the educational centers.”

She spent SR27,600 in one year at dedicated educational centers for her child but did not see any improvement in his condition.

"This high cost is because my child has a severe case of autism, while the cost of such education for milder cases is only SR12,000 a year," she said.

She explained her suffering increases even further when people closest to her began avoiding her, fearing their children would “catch” the condition.

“I did not leave my house for four years, fearing my child would fall victim to such behavior from others,” she said.

She said she has spent all the money and effort needed to find a cure for her child's condition but all specialized centers have refused to continue his education because he is severely autistic and they are unable to control him.

She noted that she tried to train her son through games and toys and provided him with special food that cost her around SR2,000 a month.

Um Mehiaf complained the center where her 12-year-old autistic daughter receives treatment was more keen on taking her money than treating her child’s condition.

“I take my daughter to the center three times a week and it costs me SR1,500 a month but so far I have not noticed any improvement in my daughter’s condition,” she said.

She is hoping for charitable centers to deal with such cases and take into account the psychological suffering of mothers and the high costs of food and treatments.

She also hoped the Ministry of Social Affairs would intervene and provide suitable accommodation for low-income families with autistic children.

Um Iyad said she admitted her autistic son to a specialized center in Jeddah for six years and noticed a great improvement in his condition.

However, one day the center advised her that her son was very troublesome and they could not continue his education.

It told her to admit him at a Jordanian academy for autism.

"I did not expect my child's condition to improve so much after I admitted him to the academy," she said.

Many families of autistic children have called for the establishment of specialized centers for their children and for an increase in the annual subsidies to meet the increasing costs of living.

Special needs expert Eid Al-Bajramim said autistic children may be more intelligent than other children.

He pointed out that autism is more prevalent in boys than girls but is usually more chronic in the latter.

Autism and behavioral disorders specialist Huda Al-Haider said that there are no obvious signs of autism in children apart from the inability to communicate with others, incapability to form friendships and unjustified screaming or laughing.

She said: “The early discovery and treatment of autism could have good results.

“It is also very important to integrate autistic children with normal children as isolation can be damaging.”

Al-Bajramim criticized those who deal with autistic children as they would a stubborn and violent child.

She said these children were normal but simply cannot communicate nor understand their surroundings.

According to autism expert Dr. Khaled Ayyash, autistic children’s abilities and skills should be evaluated to find out their strengths and weaknesses.

He added individualized programs should be set up for autistic children to develop their communication skills and social interactions.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42
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