Government’s intention is to build hundreds of of similar health-care facilities for behavior and developmental disorders, the Shamah center expected to be followed up by several initiatives throughout the Kingdom.
The Governor of the Eastern Province HRH Prince Saud ibn Nayif ibn ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al Sa’ud inaugurated the Shamah Autism Center in Dammam on April 7. The Prince toured the facility and interacted with children while he listened to teachers and specialists explaining the center’s services.
The center is built on an area of 2,400 square meters with a capacity for 100 students and the capability for expansion. The center is designed to provide early intervention for boys and girls ages 3-8. Currently, half of the staff are Saudis. The center provides services that meet international standards and follow best practices.
The center is an initiative by the Shumua Al Amal Company to provide specialized services to autistic children and their families within the Eastern Province.
As part of its social responsibility endeavors, Saudi Aramco provided financial and technical support to build the facility and will also help to operate the center for the next five years.
Based on global averages, approximately 125,000 to 200,000 children in the Kingdom are believed to be affected by autism. The national project launched to address autism and pervasive developmental disorder is built on five pillars:
- Educating the public about the illness and raising awareness about patients’ rights
- Proposing laws to support patients
- Conducting research and studies to build a national database that will assist in dealing with the illness
- Providing diagnostic services for early intervention and treatment in hospitals and clinics, in particular those operated by the Ministry of Health
- Training specialists to deal with this segment of society and supporting their endeavors.
“This program has made strides in all of its fields under the management of mental health professionals within the Health Ministry. We intend to build hundreds of health-care facilities for this segment of society.”, says HE Khalid A. Al-Falih, Minister of Health and Saudi Aramco Chairman of the Board.
Saudi Aramco president and CEO Amin Nasser noted that international studies show a potential increase in the number of cases diagnosed with autism. An important factor in successful intervention is that children receive specialized treatment in their early, formative years.
“I hope that the Shamah Autism Center, along with other current and future centers, will provide a conducive environment to realize the potential of autistic children, empowering them to enrich the Kingdom and world with their creativity,” said Nasser, adding that the inauguration of the center should spark hope for many children who will be the men and women of tomorrow.
With the launch of the center, it is hoped that not only will the facility address a percentage of this need directly, but that the example set forth by Saudi Aramco and our partners will spread throughout the region and the Kingdom to build similar centers and meet societal needs as a whole.