United Arab Emirates: More than 20,000 children screened in autism early detection program

Dubai: An autism early detection program developed by the Emirates Health Services (EHS) has screened more than 20,000 children in the past year and a half. Meanwhile, EHS facilities served more than 1,000 autism patients in 2022.

EHS revealed these figures in a recent statistical report published ahead of World Mental Health Day, which falls on October 10.

EHS said it has developed a range of specialized mental health services for children and adolescents at its affiliate Al Amal Psychiatric Hospital, an EHS facility that specializes in pediatric and adolescent mental health in the region. Among them is the innovative early detection program for autism spectrum disorder launched last year.

Early referral, intervention

The program focuses on referring children with moderate to high severity autism to specialized evaluation, diagnosis and treatment centers in hospitals.

A key feature of the program is the integration of the widely recognized M-CHAT-R screening tool and a streamlined referral process of positive cases through a centralized portal. Since its inception in 2022, the program has achieved an impressive 97 percent compliance rate.

In its latest report, EHS revealed that the number of children between 16 months and 30 months who benefited from this service from 2022 to the first half of 2023 reached 20,626. In addition, the total number of autism patients treated in 2022 amounted to 1,093 cases, he stated.

EHS said the program was developed as part of its dedication to providing excellent healthcare services and improving people’s lives, while focusing on the early detection of mental disorders and autism.

Dr. Noor Alsari Al Mheiri

According to Dr Noor Alsari Al Mheiri, director of the Mental Health Department at EHS, the program aims to direct suspected cases of autism spectrum disorder to specialized facilities for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.

“The goal is to provide necessary medical care and specialized support to beneficiaries and their families,” he said.

Dr. Al Mheiri emphasized that efforts to improve early detection and support for autistic children represent an important milestone in healthcare delivery and reflect EHS’ commitment to providing comprehensive and effective healthcare services to various segments of community.

“EHS has worked on developing specialized mental health services for children and adolescents based on reliable evidence backed by scientific research at Al Amal Psychiatric Hospital, in partnership with Maudsley Health,” he said.

Specialized facilities

In addition, specialized child and adolescent mental health clinics have been established at Al Qassimi Women and Children’s Hospital, with multidisciplinary medical teams including consulting physicians, specialists, a director of nursing, speech therapists, social workers, clinical psychologists and administrative staff. . and support staff.

EHS has also provided specialized outpatient clinics for children that operate in the morning and evening. These clinics offer specialized evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation services for psychological and behavioral disorders, adapted to the child’s age and psychological and social needs.

Additionally, EHS offers 24-hour emergency services and a helpline to provide psychological consultation, support and family counseling from trained psychologists, following an approved policy that ensures safety and quality.

In 2022, EHS launched a weekly clinic for autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) in children and adolescents at Al Amal Psychiatric Hospital.

It also established a network of teleclinics for community mental health services for children and adolescents in primary care centers in the Northern Emirates and general hospitals. This initiative aims to improve integration between primary, secondary and tertiary care services.

EHS said it is dedicated to meeting its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals by actively managing early childhood conditions. As part of this, EHS ensures that all children visiting primary health care centers undergo early screening for autism. Moderate to high severity cases are quickly referred to specialized hospital-based entities for thorough evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.

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