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PHCC: Online program for families of children with autism spectrum disorder

08 Dec 2020


Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) has launched a virtual version of their ‘Early Bird Program’ to support parents and family members of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Dr Sadriya Al-Kohji, Assistant Medical Director for Children and Adolescent Services at PHCC and National Lead for Healthy Children and Adolescents Strategies, stated that the birth of a child with disability leads to different emotional responses among spouses and children. “The nature of a parent’s response is affected by many factors including the type and level of disability, culture and social outlook, level of education, age group, and the financial condition.”

PHCC’s on-site ‘Early Bird Program’ was launched in 2018, and has trained parents of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) under the age of seven. The program spans over a period of three months and provides 12 training sessions with strategies to help improve the process of communication and understanding between parents and the child. The program works to develop and improve parents' relationship and facilitate easy and effective communication with the children diagnosed with autism, especially at home.

“The reaction of families with children with disabilities varies between shock, emotional withdrawal, and understanding and acceptance. At the time, the family is facing a lot of pressure and confusion which calls for an intervention from someone outside the family to guide them and explain the challenges and mechanisms required to deal with it, and how to coexist with the newborn and integrate them into the family,” says Dr. Sadriya.

Given the challenges of physical visits and pandemic, PHCC has launched a virtual version of the training to help new parents from home. There is also a set of future services for this group in the planning and preparation stage to provide more scientific-based community services.

Children with disabilities suffer from functional impairment or mental deficiencies that affect their health, hinder their full and effective participation in physical or intellectual activities, impede their educational performance and their ability to perform tasks on par with others. These challenges however also endow them with qualities and talents that allow them to excel in other areas of life. Therefore it is imperative for the society to embrace them, support their needs and encourage their talents.