Autism Home Support Services Planned

The screening program for autism will be extended nationwide this year to identify children with ASD across the country so as to provide a database for providing the therapeutic services
Autism Home Support  Services PlannedAutism Home Support  Services Planned

The Rehabilitation Services Department at the State Welfare Organization is planning to execute a project in the second half of the current Iranian year (began in March) to provide families of autistic children with home support as well as respite services to parents.

“Caring for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a daunting task and can be strenuous. Parents need assistance to provide comprehensive care and therapeutic services to autistic children,” said head of the department Hussein Nahvinejad.

The screening program for autism will be extended nationwide this year to identify children with ASD across the country so as to provide a database for providing the therapeutic services.

Parents often sacrifice their own health and wellbeing in providing care to the needs of autistic children. Research shows that respite services can make a significant positive difference in the lives of families, allowing them to take a break which contributes to improving their social and emotional well-being.  It is also shown to have a positive impact on family relations.

ASD is the name for a group of developmental disorders including a wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability such as ongoing social problems, difficulty communicating, repetitive behaviors, and limited interests or activities.

A neurological disorder, it is usually graded in severity along a spectrum. It causes problems with thinking, feeling, language, and relating to others. There are no reliable figures for its global extent. The World Health Organization noted in 2013 that reviews estimate one child in 160 has an autism spectrum disorder but that prevalence varies “substantially” across studies.

There is a dearth of early intervention programs for children with ASD and their families in Iran. A parent-based early intervention program was developed in 2005 based on several preliminary studies.

Called “Omid early intervention program for children with Autism,” it was based on the social model of service provision and to establish a good parent–professional relationship through visiting children and engaging parents in the intervention process. It covered 18 provinces initially and was extended to 24 provinces in 2009.

When the screening shows a suspected ASD, the child is referred for further assessment which is undertaken by special education experts from the testing and evaluation department at the Special Education Organization, affiliated to the Education Ministry. The experts are trained in psychological assessment.

  Major Financial Burden

Autism is a major financial burden. Insurance companies are of little help. In the case of government hospitals, insurance companies cover 40% of the costs. But if families are not insured or want to take their kids to private centers, the costs are steep.

“ASD is often diagnosed when it is too late for intervention, imposing a great burden on the society. That is why the SWO has planned to take action for timely screening and diagnosis through standard tests,” Nahvinejad said.

Autistic people need specialized care and training, which requires rehabilitation technicians, dieticians, educators, as well as occupational, speech and physical therapists. There are now a few day-care facilities for autistic people in Iran that offer some or all of these services.  

“We are in talks with the April 2 Educational Facility and Autism Charity Society of Iran to harness their capacities in implementing the project,” Nahvinejad told IRNA.

April 2 Educational Facility, named after the International Autism Awareness Day, is active in educating children with ASD.

The services typically include counseling for children with ASD and their families; at-home and center-based therapy and evidence-based practice (EBP). Center-based therapy offers families’ full-time and part-time treatment plans; all therapy is individualized and done in a one-on-one setting mixed with strategic social group interaction. Evidence-based practice is an interdisciplinary approach to clinical practice.

Studies prove that early intervention yields the best outcome. The efficacy of various methods including the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is recognized by various scientific centers such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.

There are about 2,200 children with ASD registered at the SWO.

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