Autism on the rise in the UAE

Dubai, 25 January 2016— The prevalence of autism is said to have increased over the years. In UAE, despite the lack of official figures, it is believed that the number of autism cases is going up according to Dubai Autism Centre. The same is true for other countries. In a report released by Gulf News, the number of children diagnosed with this condition in the USA has risen to 23 per cent since 2009, with one in 88 children affected. In the UK, cases of autism have increased 12-fold in the past 30 years and may be 50 per cent higher than previously suspected. This fact, along with the widening of the different ranges of autistic conditions, is clearly becoming a concern for healthcare professionals.

“Autism is no longer a narrow category but has widened enormously to embrace a whole range of autistic conditions and to see a classic autism has become the exception,” says Dr. Huda Sadek, Consultant General Paediatrics and Neurodevelopment from Mafraq Hospital in UAE.

“Public awareness of this fact is important as this will help in early recognition and referral, subsequently arranging post diagnostic services to support children with a confirmed diagnosis particularly in managing their behavioural difficulties, associated potential health co-morbidities and advice about the appropriate educational placement,” she added.

Presently, there are no consistent standards for managing autism in the UAE. Children with autism are currently being handled depending on the doctor’s experience in the field and his background in medical training. This could lead to using medication that is not clinically proven to improve these cases.

Dr. Huda Sadek will be speaking at the 3rd Arab Paediatric Medical Congress co-located with the 2nd Arab Neonatal Medical Congress which takes place at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, UAE on the 25th to 27th of February 2016. The congress will be inaugurated by H.E. Prof. Tawfik A.M. Khoja, Director General of the Executive Board of the Health Ministers’ Council for Cooperation Council States from Saudi Arabia.

In this congress, Dr. Huda will be further discussing the management of autism. In response to our question about the highlights of her presentation, Dr. Huda said:Many of these kids presented to general paediatric clinics with medical problems as constipation, or abnormal movements are misdiagnosed to being epileptic or having sleeping and behavioural problems. Therefore, it is important for paediatricians to be aware of the spectrum of clinical presentation of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and consider the condition in their differential diagnosis.” 

In addition to neuro developmental delays, other key topics that will be discussed during the congress include reviewing health policies and strategies to improve children’s health; pulmonology, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders; and paediatric emergencies and critical care. The Arab Neonatal Medical Congress on the other hand will cover key topics such as reviewing global challenges and controversies in neonatal health; discussing neurologic and rare disorders as well as neonatal development, haemodynamic, cardiology, gastroenterology and nutrition; updating strategies for neonatal and fetal critical care; managing neonatal pulmonology and infection; and understanding neonatal metabolic and rare disorders. The congress will also host a conference on paediatric orthopaedics which would tackle topics such developmental dysplasia of the hip, paediatric spine and celebral palsy, and paediatric foot.

To commemorate the Rare Disease Day on February 29, the congress will also feature a special symposium covering rare diseases and genetic disorders that will take place on February 25.

To see the list of topics of that will be discussed during the congress, you may visit its website at

**Please note, Thumbay Group, Gulf Medical University, and HEALTH magazine are not liable nor responsible for the facts, figures, and overall content of the press releases on our portal.

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