International experts in the field of pediatric psychiatry, psychology and genetics came together on February 8, 2015 to participate in the Sidra Symposia Series event on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The event addressed diagnosis and management of the condition, emphasizing the need for a holistic, team-based approach to care.
ASD is characterized by early onset socialization and communication difficulties, associated with restricted interests and behavioral rigidities. However, despite a growing body of research on ASD, these complex conditions are among the least understood developmental disorders of childhood. Educating clinicians and families about ASD is vital for improved diagnosis, management and outcome.
“It is important to raise awareness of ASD among medical professionals and general public with events like the Sidra Symposia Series, which help provide knowledge and education about the condition. This can facilitate appropriate intervention early in a child’s life. Research has shown that early intervention is extremely important for positive long-term outcomes,” said Dr. Muhammad Waqar Azeem, who will be Sidra’s Inaugural Chair of Psychiatry and Founding Chair of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College – Qatar.
Symposium attendees heard the latest updates on research from Qatar on the role of genetic etiology in ASD, techniques for communication, speech and language assessments and interventions, as well as an overview of current epidemiological trends, diagnosis and treatment in ASD.
Qatar has set out ambitious plans for building a strong mental health care infrastructure in the country and, in December 2013, announced its comprehensive approach to delivering mental health care services. In line with a call for a balanced system of care, Sidra will work with other institutions in Qatar to develop and expand community and specialized mental health services for children and families.
Closing the event, Dr. Azeem remarked that all healthcare professionals involved in caring for children with ASD should engage in a team-based approach to care. Sidra will have capabilities to provide interdisciplinary assessment for ASD, as well as make appropriate child and family centered recommendations to improve the quality of life for children with ASD and their families.