Aramco-sponsored autism center earns CARF accreditation
Shamah Autism Center is now the only autism center in the region to receive the prestigious designation.
The Shamah Autism Center recently accomplished a major milestone, becoming the only autism center in the Middle East to obtain the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accreditation.
Founded in 1966, CARF provides accreditation standards for health and human services providers and has accredited more than 8,000 service providers and 60,000 programs and services at 28,000-plus locations worldwide.
Shamah Autism Center’s award of CARF accreditation represents a big accomplishment for the center and the Kingdom.
“Earning this accreditation will encourage us to maintain our quality and aspire to achieve more. It’s a commitment.,” Dr. Saad Al Sharani, Shamah Autism Center director said.
Aramco provided initial funding for the center as part of the company’s social responsibility efforts. Management saw that quality facilities were needed in Saudi Arabia as the cost of sending children with autism and their families outside the Kingdom to seek treatment was exorbitant.
Planning for the center began in 2012, and it was launched in 2018 with 19 students. Today, the center serves 82 students — with a capacity of 100 students.
Services at the center include behavioral, academic, and life skills education, as well as therapy intended to prepare students to be included in regular classrooms and society. Facilities at the center include academic classrooms, water therapy, a sensory room, and mock home and kitchen facilities where students can learn basic self-care, and more.
A good example of Shamah’s work is the progress the center has made with Ayan, a young student. On a recent visit to the center, the notes of “Happy Birthday” filled the air as Ayan played them on a toy piano. After a quick song, Ayan returned to a work station and settled back into a lesson. Just a few months ago, this calm transition between tasks would have been unthinkable.
“He joined in October — a very difficult case, screaming, slamming doors,” Al Sharani said. “His father gave us a strict deadline. We had two weeks. If he didn’t get any better, they were pulling out.”
The Shamah Autism Center is well-aligned with the Kingdom’s Saudization goals — 90% of its staff are Saudis. Building a strong workforce of qualified professionals to provide services to the center and the Kingdom is a major goal.