WISH and Al Shaqab Collaborate with Qatar Autism Families Association

The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) organised a series of horse riding and play sessions for children with autism as part of its Summer Community Programme. The camp at Al Shaqab in Education City is for the benefit of children from the Qatar Autism Families Association (QAFA).

The opportunity was made possible through the support of Al Shaqab’s Equine Education division, which provided facilities, horses, and staff for four evenings a week this August. QAFA already offers horse riding opportunities for children with autism during the cooler months of the year, but this has not been possible during the hot summer months. The new collaboration with WISH and Al Shaqab has given children access to Al Shaqab’s indoor arena,  allowing horse riding to become a year-round option.

WISH created the summer programme, mindful that Qatar’s National Autism Plan focuses on the need to engage children with autism through activities that take place outside of the classroom. Children taking part in horse riding activities at Al Shaqab enjoy the chance to improve their motor and balance skills, as well as experience the sensory and emotional benefits that come from riding a horse.

The horse riding sessions commenced earlier this month and will continue through until the end of August. A separate twice-weekly swimming programme began on 13 July, in collaboration with Qatar Foundation Recreation Services. WISH also recently collaborated with QAFA to arrange separate swimming sessions for mothers of children with autism, in line with a research by WISH that highlights the importance of building support networks for their families.

Neil Moors, WISH Head of Community Development said that children with autism are often excluded from healthy activities because of misconceptions about their disability.

Having seen first-hand how much fun the children taking part in our summer activities have, and the pleasure their parents get by watching their children enjoying themselves, I’m really glad that WISH has been able to work with Al Shaqab and with QF Recreation Services to create our Summer Community Program.’

Ahmed Khalid Al Hameedi, Horse Program Advisor at Al Shaqab, said that one of the pillars for Qatar Foundation is community development.

As members of QF, we are delighted to be able to offer our support for this initiative, which is not only a fun activity for autistic children but also has many other benefits for the participants’ health and well-being.’

Sheikha Al Khayareen, a member of QAFA, said that having access to Al Shaqab’s wonderful indoor arena during August meant that children are able to continue enjoying the benefits of horse riding throughout the year. She said that all of them are extremely grateful to WISH for organising the opportunity and to Al Shaqab for being such generous hosts.

Since its establishment in 2012, WISH has made autism one of its priority areas for evidence-based research, and has produced reports, hosted expert panels, and led initiatives in this area. Through events such as its summer programme, WISH is ensuring that Qatari society benefits from its global research work.

WISH is an initiative of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development (QF). Its most recently published report on autism is available to read via the WISH website