By: Nicole Skotz
Walking into the center the first day, there were many thoughts running through my mind: where are we, what’s it going to look like, how are we going to communicate, what are we training the staff on, and … it’s scorching hot! All of those questions/worries were immediately eased once we actually walked in and met the staff (except the heat, that trouble was only masked with air conditioning in the buildings and cars, not the 2 second walk to and from the car!)
The clinic has 4 clinicians: Yaser, Marwa, Sara, and Jazmin. They are all very skilled and talented. Yaser, Marwa, and Sara are all RBTs, and Jazmin is on her way to being one. All 3 RBTs want to become BCBAs eventually, and Yaser is a test short from becoming a BCaBA. There are approximately 50 thousand kids diagnosed with autism in Saudia Arabia, and only about 23 BCBAs. There aren’t many centers that provide therapy for children with autism, and much less resources for ABA therapy.
Our partners have a vision. Their goal is to make it possible for all children with autism to have access to quality services. Something that Yaser said on our first day of work was, “The destiny of a child should not be determined by where they are born.” He went on to say that it’s not fair for a child in Saudi Arabia to not have decent services just because they are born here, where in America there are resources, workshops, insurance funded services, schooling, support, books, and so on. What this center is trying to do is make services more available for children in the area, and more affordable for families. Yaser constantly seeks out for community funding and support for these services, so that families don’t have to take all of the cost. He advocates for the availability of services for children on the spectrum, and the professional advancement of skills for his staff to be able to provide proficient ABA therapy. Families often travel 4-5 hours to the center for a 2-hour therapy session twice a week. Why, you might ask? Because there isn’t anything closer, or what it closer is not really anything beneficial to their children.
The therapists let us know that some parents come here with not a bit of hope left. Because there have been a lack of resources or no quality services available, parents are trusting the reputation of the center when bringing their children in. They later see the progress that their children make after being here for a couple of weeks and note the impact that ABA services have on their children’s skills. Parents shift from feeling that they have to hide their children in their homes and not take them out into the community, to now celebrating their children’s success’ and integrating them into their everyday lives and routines. Namaee has created hope in their community, that children with autism can learn to communicate with others, become independent, and function in society.
It wasn’t until the end of the first week that someone said, “development”, after we said the name of the center, Namaee. All of us turned to the man puzzled and asked, “What?” He said, “Namaee means development.” It was a huge lightbulb that went off in my head. Yeah, that makes sense and fits this center perfectly. This center is all about development, but not like you would naturally think. Well, of course they focus on the development of the children they serve; but they also focus on the growth of services for their city, the expansion of awareness for children with autism, and the development of knowledge for ABA services. Namaee is the catalyst for change and improvement for children with Autism in Riyadh and all-over Saudi Arabia. I am so grateful to be part of their vision and support their dream to provide services for children in this country. This is the new development; we need more of the vision and passion of Namaee in our lives.