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100,000 autistic children in Kingdom
Saudi Gazette
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 01 - 04 - 2008

There are more than 100,000 autistic children in the Kingdom, a study financed by the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology released on Saturday has found.
The researchers concluded that autism should not be regarded as a disease, but a developmental disorder of brain functions.
They wrote that people with classical autism show three types of symptoms: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusually severely limited activities and interests.
The symptoms of autism usually appear during the first three years of childhood and continue throughout the patient's life.
The study also showed that autistic children tend to isolate themselves in worlds of their own and appear indifferent, removed and unable to form emotional bonds.
Dr. Talat Al-Wazna, secretary general of the Saudi Autism Society, said the study was ordered by Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, Chairman of the Council of Ministers' Bureau and Minister of State, and was conducted by the National Autism Project in three years.
He said although children with such a baffling brain disorder can display a wide range of symptoms and disabilities, many are incapable of understanding other people's thoughts, feelings and needs.
“Often, language and intelligence fail to develop fully, making communication and social relationships difficult,” said Wazna. “Many children with autism engage in repetitive activities, like rocking or banging their heads, or rigidly following familiar patterns in their everyday routines. Some are painfully sensitive to sound, touch, sight or scent.”
Wazna said the society coordinates with GCC states to extend the World Autism Day, which falls on the second of April, to a seven-day event that will aim at increasing awareness about the disorder.
He called upon businessmen and philanthropists to contribute to building more institutes for autistic children. He added that the cost of treating an autistic child exceeds $100,000.
Saleh Al-Ghamdi, director of the Rehabilitation Center in Jeddah, said there are 66 autism cases in the center, including 51 Saudis. He added that they are coached by 12 teachers who specialize in special education and behavioral disorders.
Dr. Hassan Halwani, a social and psychological counselor, described autism as a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life.
“The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism and its associated behaviors have been estimated to occur in as many as 6 to 32 in 1,000 individuals.”
He added that autism is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls, and has no racial or social associations. Halwani pointed out that psychological and social specialists help families create a plan for care, with heavy emphasis on diet and orthomolecular nutrition. __


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