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Medical experts share advice on autism-related issues

By Camille Dupire - Apr 28,2018 - Last updated at Apr 28,2018

Petra's Treasury is lit up in blue as part of the Autism awareness Light it Up Blue campaign (File photo)

AMMAN — Medical experts on Saturday gathered to discuss the medical and behavioural issues related to autism, as part of the Autism Mini Medical Conference, which aimed to raise awareness among families of persons with autism and help answer their inquiries.

Organised by Autism Mena (AMENA) as part of a series of lectures on autism, the conference sought to raise public awareness about the daily issues faced by individuals with autism, their families and professionals in the field.

The mini medical conference saw the participation of Serena Abu Dayyeh, a pediatric and special needs dentist and founder of Angel Smile Organisation for Oral Health Awareness, Hanan Barakat, M.D. anesthesiologist at LAU medical centre and Rizk hospital in Lebanon, in addition to Antoine Karam, renowned Lebanese gynecologist specialised in dealing with puberty in girls and options for parents with special need daughters.

“One of the most important signs of adulthood — independence —  comes with an increased perception to one’s environment and great hormonal changes. For children under the autism spectrum, these changes can be even more troubling and there is a great need for them to be accompanied by professional to go through them in a healthy way,” said Karam, noting that the conference aimed to help children, adolescents and adults with autism to better tackle these life evolutions.

After a presentation of the latest studies and research in the field, Karam tackled the issue of sexual and reproductive health for people with autism, linking it to the religious concerns of concerned populations.

"We have witnessed a number of cases of unwanted pregnancies, unprotected relations and cases of assault or rape against people with autism," he told the audience, highlighting the need to "keep spreading awareness in this regard and provide professional assistance to people with autism while they go through puberty".

The gynecologist outlined the various options available to people under the autism spectrum, stressing the need to take into account each person's individual characteristics when undertaking medical procedures.

This was also the focus of anesthesiologist Hanan Barakat's talk, as he spoke of the specific procedures available for patients with autism, their rights and ways to deal with the aftermath of surgical procedures.

"There are a lot of specificities when it comes to undertaking surgical procedures for people with autism, such as the reduced fasting time required before surgery, the minimised waiting period before procedure, etc," he explained, outlining appropriate anesthesiology for patients with autism.

"I always felt like there was a lack of information on the medical perspective towards autism. Most of the work focuses on the behavioural aspect of things and there seems to not be enough awareness on medical related issues, such as dentistry, gynecology or gastrology," AMENA founder Jeeman Ammary said.

The conference, which targeted people aged ten years and above, also covered day to day issues such as teeth brushing, blood works, vitamin supplementation, healthy diets and solutions to food intolerances.

“AMENA planned this event along with other activities during the month of April, which marks the cause of autism including an awareness campaign, the ‘Light it up Blue’ in partnership with various landmarks around the Kingdom and awareness sessions,” said Ammary, noting that "there is a great need among families to exchange on topics related to autism".

Ten years ago, the UN General Assembly declared April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of people affected by autism, so they can lead full and meaningful lives, according to the UN website.

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