The Child Development Centre of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) will host a series of autism awareness seminars for healthcare professionals beginning on 24 April, at Hajar Auditorium, at the HMC Medical Education Centre. The first in the series will be Autism Awareness Seminar for Health Professionals.

Caregivers of patients with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often remarked that many health professionals lack awareness and understanding of the condition. They express concerns over how a lack of understanding can impair the effective delivery of care to the autistic patient population.

Autism Awareness RibbonDr Nazim Abdel Aati, Paediatric Consultant at the Child Development Centre and Therapy Services, and the HMC Autism Programme Director, explained that for many patients with an ASD, a trip to the hospital (emergency, outpatient, or inpatient setting), optician, or dentist can be extremely stressful. Many of these patients have difficulties with communication and the unfamiliar environment and activities may cause them to experience sensory overload. This can manifest itself through challenging behaviour that can make it difficult for the health professional to conduct their diagnosis or administer treatment.

Physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals can sometimes find encounters with patients with autism challenging. The condition is characterised by a combination of impaired social interactions, difficulties with communication, and repetitive behaviours. Fatima Mustafa, Assistant Director of Paediatric Rehabilitation at HMC, said that incorrect assumptions about individual patients’ skills or needs can create a negative experience for some patients with autism.

Some healthcare providers may have misconceptions about persons with autism and may be insufficiently trained in dealing with the behaviours exhibited by some of their patients who have ASD. Health professionals should be mindful of the disability aspects of autism, and their behaviour should help meet the needs of their patients and reduce their level of stress. The good thing is that those who are willing, can learn how to modify their own practice so they are able to provide the right care to someone with autism.’

The planned awareness seminars are designed to highlight approaches that healthcare professionals can adopt when caring for patients with autism. The seminars will provide guidance on typical behaviours exhibited by patients with autism and will offer practical tips on how healthcare professionals can effectively care for patients with ASD.

Hossam Mehana, Senior Behavioural Psychologist and Autism Programme Coordinator at the Child Development Centre said that the educational event is accredited by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners (QCHP) and will provide valuable continuing professional development (up to 3 CPD points) to anyone looking to equip themselves with a deeper understanding of autism. The seminars will enable care providers to better relate to their patients in the course of their work.

We know there is a high demand for this type of training, from dentists, ophthalmologists, social workers, teachers, therapists, and other professionals who come into contact with individuals who have autism but don’t necessarily know the best way to deal with them. We have developed an educational plan that is designed to help them provide better, more person-centred care to patients.’

Each month the Child Development Centre sees approximately 40 new referrals for a possible ASD diagnosis, mostly primary health centre referrals. The number of children diagnosed with ASD in 2017 was 363; the Child Development Centre managed the care of 610 children with ASD last year.

For more information and updates about the Autism Awareness Seminar series, log on to the HMC website at