Caring for a Child with Autism

By: Nihal Bishr, Information Services Librarian - Children
Caring for a Child with Autism


The Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Qatar

Autism is not a medical condition with a cure, although there are treatments that can help mitigate the symptoms. It is still unclear what causes autism, however genetic, environmental elements, or both are likely to increase the risk of developing the disorder. A study by Qatar Biomedical Research Institute at Hamad Bin Khalifa University indicated that in Qatar one in every 87 children is diagnosed with autism. From the results, it is estimated that the prevalence of autism in children in Qatar from 2015 to 2018 is 1.14%.

Importance of early diagnosis 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism is more common in boys than in girls. Autistic children generally have difficulties with communication and social interaction, and these issues manifest themselves before the age of five. Therefore, early diagnosis and interventions are key to reducing children’s symptoms, as therapies can improve their overall development which will help them learn new skills. Thus, it is important for parents to have early screenings for autism and, if their child shows any symptoms, to take immediate action. The CDC also recommends that developmental delay and disability screenings should occur at nine, 18, 24 or 30 months, and children should be screened specifically for autism at 18, or 24 months.

Unfortunately, children with autism are sometimes not diagnosed until the age of four years, which means important interventions are delayed. Therefore, diagnosis at an early age can help children enjoy a more independent life and improve the chances of effective treatment. Also, intervention services such as behavioral, speech and occupational therapies become more beneficial.  

How QNL Responds to Autism in Qatar

Qatar National Library places a high priority on addressing autism and has organized numerous events over the course of three years. These events include workshops, lectures, and discussion seminars aimed at both parents and specialists. Their focus is on providing useful applications and guidelines to help parents with children who have autism. Among the topics covered in these events are "World Autism Day: Opportunities for Social Inclusion in Libraries," "How to Spread Awareness About Autism?", "Assistive Technology Apps for Non-Verbal Children with Autism," "Visual Aids for Children with Autism," and "Accessible Apps for Parents of Children with Autism”. 

It is also important to expose children to different sensory experiences that can help in improving their cognitive and social development. In April 2022, Qatar National Library launched its Sensory Room. The room combines a wide range of stimuli to help children from birth up to three years old – and children with special needs up to the age of 14 – to develop and engage their senses. 

 Autism initiatives and services in Qatar 

I have been living in Qatar for almost 10 years and I have witnessed a huge increase in the number of centers and schools that offer services for children with autism and also offer support for their parents. The Child Development Center at Rumailah Hospital is one of the governmental medical entities in Qatar that provides services and programs for children from birth to 14 years of age with mental and physical disabilities, as well as developmental and learning delays. The center offers specialized programs such as the Early Intervention Program, the Autism Program, and the Student with Disability Support program. 

The Learning Center is a pre-university department within Qatar Foundation (QF) that has introduced the new DARB initiative, which will serve the community outside of QF. The DARB initiative will offer educational evaluations and therapy services for children and adolescents aged three to 18 years in the areas of cognitive and psychoeducational evaluations, speech and language, and occupational therapy. 

Without a doubt, raising a child with autism is challenging for families. But following the right approach and with the proper support for the child, treatment can reduce the symptoms of autism and help the child’s developmental growth. Early diagnosis, long-term interventions, and treatment intensity can improve the child’s social and communication skills. As a result, their cognitive ability can significantly improve.


  • Alshaban, Fouad, et al. “Prevalence and Correlates of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Qatar: A National Study.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 60, no. 12, 2019, pp. 1254–1268., doi:10.1111/jcpp.13066. 
  • Mouridsen, Svend Erik. “Current Status of Research on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Offending.” Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, vol. 6, no. 1, 2012, pp. 79–86., doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2011.09.003. 
  • Yazıcı, Dila Nur. “The Expectations of Parents Having Children with Autism from Early Intervention Programs.” International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education, 2020, pp. 264–276., doi:10.9756/int-jecse/v12i1.201009.
  • Tardif-Grenier, K., Archambault, I., Dupéré, V., Marks, A. K., & Olivier, E. (2021). Canadian adolescents’ internalized symptoms in pandemic times: Association with sociodemographic characteristics, confinement habits, and support. Psychiatric Quarterly, 92(3), 1309-1325. doi:10.1007/s11126-021-09895-x.

Further readings from Qatar National Library collection

  1. Rules and tools for parents of children with autism spectrum and related disorders: changing behavior one step at a time / Judith Coucouvanis; foreword by Brenda Smith Myles
  2. 101 tips for parents of children with autism: effective solutions for everyday challenges / Arnold Miller and Theresa Smith; foreword by Dr. Paul J. Callahan; afterword by Ethan B. Miller.
  3. Essential first steps for parents of children with autism: helping the littlest learners / by Lara Delmolino & Sandra L. Harris.
  4. Bringing ABA to home, school, and play for young children with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities / by Debra Leach.

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