Jessica Bailey Ackerman speaks to Hasna Nada, founder of the newly opened Child Development Centre, about how her personal experiences inspired her to build a facility that will undoubtedly have a huge impact in Qatar.
One in every 68 children in the United States has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and with a rapidly growing rate of diagnoses in the Gulf region, autism is one disorder we need to stand up and take notice of. We not only need to free it of stigma, but also make sure it’s acknowledged as a manageable condition, particularly in Doha where there are fewer options for help.
This is where the newly launched Child Development Centre comes in, which has just opened in Al Dafna.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterised by a wide range of symptoms, skills deficiencies, and varying levels of impairment and disability. Some children are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are more severely affected. The Child Development Centre hopes to help children at each end of the spectrum, as well as kids with other special learning needs.
It aims to be a home for families who are like-minded, offering them the chance to come together for the benefit of their children. I visited the centre to get a first hand impression of what it has to offer and was taken on a tour of the brilliant facilities.
Before I got there, I imagined a hospital-like environment with a sterile ambience and lifeless white walls. But instead I was met with quite a contrast – bright colours, fun decorations, kid’s toys and smiling faces. The Occupational Therapy Room is a playground designed to educate, and the Early Intervention Room allows kids to run around. On first glance, you’d have no idea of the challenges these children face.
Hasna Nada, founder of the centre, was first faced with a difficult scenario herself when she noticed that her son, Faisal, was struggling with learning difficulties. She tells me how her experience led her to where she is today. ‘I knew nothing about autsim at that point,’ she admits.
‘I Googled his symptoms but because Faisal is a high functioning case, a pervasive developmental disorder, borderline in and out of the spectrum, it was extremely challenging to get him accurately diagnosed.’
Hasna began visiting the local hospitals but they could only diagnose those with severe symptoms and so, with waiting lists as long as six months, she decided to fly further afield and bring in experts from abroad.
This was not only an exhaustive process, but an expensive one too.
On top of that, Hasna was trying to find long-term treatment for her son in Doha. ‘We started consulting freelance therapists to help with treatment but struggled to get more than one lesson a week,’ she says. ‘It made me think of all the children who require daily treatment and the nightmare they must face [getting] ample help.’ Taking a step back from her isolated frustrations, Hasna started focusing on the bigger picture by speaking with professionals in the field and putting the cogs in motion for her plan to build a comprehensive multi-disciplinary therapy and support centre that caters not only to childen with autism, but for all kids who require assistance with learning disabilities.
‘I wanted to create somewhere where families can find all the therapy they need under one roof,’ she explains. ‘Somewhere that felt like a community, where parents have other parents to talk to and to support each other,’ she adds. And so the Child Development Centre was born.
One essential element of the centre is the Early Intervention Programme. Hasna explains the importance: ‘Early Intervention is key to making sure a child has the best chances for a meaningful life. It is important that autism is detected at the earliest possible age so that programmes and remedial steps can be taken to enable the child to eventually join a mainstream school.’
With this in mind, the centre offers workshops to schools, teachers and anyone else who wants to detect autism and other learning disabilities as soon as possible. They teach participants how to create the perfect programme and offer learning techniques for the child to develop.
The sense of community is evident throughout the centre. All of the teachers, assistants, therapists and helpers are kind and professional. They also advocate support groups and warmly welcome all parents, taking us one giant step closer to creating a safe haven for families trying to overcome special needs challenges in Qatar.
Bu Jenaid Street 16, Al Dafna (4414 7283). Visit www.cdcentreqatar.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early Intervention Programme
The programme assists children between ages three and six who have autism and related disorders. It’s offered in a small group model of only six children in each class.
This assesses specific learning needs such as reading, writing, spelling and numeracy for diagnostic screening to detect specific and general learning difficulties. They then produce learning plans to help your child achieve their potential.
Speech and Language Therapy
Therapy helps children find their unique voices as they use language to think, learn and develop social relationships. They provide treatment for receptive language, expressive language, play skills, phonological delays and disorders, fluency and voice disorders, as well as pragmatics or social skills.
This focuses on motor and visual perceptual development, sensory integration and other daily activites while addressing the child’s weaknesses using their strengths.
The playgroup provides meaningful play experiences and peer socialisation, which are essential for early child development. They offer highly motivating group games, opportunities for language development, and integration of music and movement.