Dr. Ola Abusukkar, executive director of King Salman Center for Disability Research

Dr. Ola Abusukkar
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Updated 23 January 2021

Dr. Ola Abusukkar, executive director of King Salman Center for Disability Research

Dr. Ola Abusukkar has been executive director of the King Salman Center for Disability Research (KSCDR) since 2019.

Abusukkar is also the training and programs director of KSCDR. The center works to implement, fund and conduct field research in all areas of disability science and disseminate knowledge through training and publications.

Abusukkar is the founder of new direction programs for youth and adults with autism in Riyadh and the founder of the youth and adults with autism summer camp.

She became chairman of the scientific committee of the developmental and behavioral disorder program at the Ministry of Health in 2017. She was the educational diploma program project coordinator at the Saudi Health Council during the same year.

In 2020, Abusukkar was awarded the 21st Middle East Leadership Excellence Award for community service sectors, held in the UAE.

She was also honored with the Harry Watkins Outstanding Achievement Award for striving for excellence in higher academic achievement at Ball State University in the US in 2013.

Before her work for KSCDR, she was a consultant at the Saudi Health Council from 2017 to 2018.

In 2015, she became the special education department chairman at the College of Education at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University until 2017.

Abusukkar holds a doctoral degree in special education for autism spectrum disorder, a partial doctoral degree in applied behavior analysis and a minor in early intervention gained from Ball State University in 2014.

In 2013, Abusukkar completed a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis with an emphasis on autism from the same university.

She also gained a master’s degree in behavioral disorder, special education, from the University of Akron in the US in 2010, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from King Abdul Aziz University in 2005.

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years

Updated 21 min 36 sec ago

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years

  • Arab News spoke to Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, SAF’s chairman, to discover more about the charity’s efforts since its launch in 2009

JEDDAH: The Saudi-based Charitable Society of Autism Families (SAF) has been assisting families with autistic children and pushing for greater community inclusion for more than 10 years now. But while awareness of autism in the region has improved in that time, there remains a stigma around and lack of understanding of the condition in the Kingdom.

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a person’s ability to communicate or socialize with others. It can lead to a variety of seemingly anti-social behaviors, including a lack of desire to interact with other people, displays of apparent hostility, avoidance of eye contact, repetitive patterns of behavior, and more.

Arab News spoke to Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, SAF’s chairman, to discover more about the charity’s efforts since its launch in 2009.

“With the right health care and resources, combined with family support, some of the children on the spectrum can gain the necessary skills to lead a ‘normal’ life and, in some cases, demonstrate special talents and capabilities not common in the wider population,” Prince Saud said. “We see many inspiring examples in our society and we regularly showcase these success stories.”

Autism is commonly diagnosed by the age of three and is more prevalent in males than females. The first studies of autism appeared in the 1960s, but less-severe varieties of autism were not identified until the 1980’s. Today, three types of ASD have been identified — each with specific characteristics that help doctors diagnose patients. They are autistic disorder, also known as classic autism; Asperger syndrome; and pervasive developmental disorders, also known as atypical autism.

Prince Saud said it is difficult to produce an accurate estimate of how many people in the Kingdom have ASD, due to the lack of sufficient studies. “However, according to the US CDC, 1 in 54 children — across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups — has been identified with ASD, meaning an approximate 1-2 percent of the global population is on the spectrum,” he said “This percentage might be applicable to the Kingdom.”

One of SAF’s most-common methods of raising awareness is through its series of public seminars, but it has recently also become more active on social media, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from its campaigning work, the society also helps arrange the provision of services including rehabilitation, educational development, guidance and assistance from other organizations for the families it supports, as well as a range of online offerings, including consultations, lectures and workshops, and rehabilitation services.

“We will continue our efforts to create a welcoming community in which autism is well understood so that those on the spectrum and their families can get the support they need,” Prince Saud said.


Saudi, Chilean ministers discuss agriculture ties

Updated 58 min 26 sec ago

Saudi, Chilean ministers discuss agriculture ties

RIYADH: Saudi Deputy Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Mansour Al-Mushaiti received the deputy minister of foreign affairs for international economic relations in Chile, Rodrigo Yanez, and his accompanying delegation in Riyadh.

They discussed strengthening economic partnerships and Saudi agricultural investment abroad, in addition to inviting the Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. and Saudi investors to explore investment opportunities in Chile.

During the meeting, Al-Mushaiti affirmed the strength of economic relations between Saudi Arabia and Chile.

The two sides also reviewed aspects of bilateral cooperation, advantages and investment opportunities in Chile and its most prominent agricultural products.

The Saudi side welcomed the Chileans’ desire to increase the percentage of its products in the Saudi market and benefit from the Saudi desalination sector’s successful experiences.

Saudi health ministry widens vaccine program as 356 new cases reported

Updated 25 February 2021

Saudi health ministry widens vaccine program as 356 new cases reported

  • The Kingdom reported five new coronavirus-related deaths

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will begin extending its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine program beyond those with health conditions and the elderly, the health ministry said on Thursday.

Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly urged people to register for vaccination early, saying this will help both the public and the ministry.

While the focus is still on those aged 65 and over, the vaccine rollout will now be widened to include other segments of the population, he said.

The Saudi Food and Drug Authority has approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, and is evaluating four other vaccines, spokesman Tayseer Al-Mufarij said.

A total of 639,587 people have been inoculated so far.

Al-Abd Al-Aly said that Taakad centers are still administering coronavirus tests, while anyone with possible symptoms can visit one of the specially equipped Tetamman clinics.

The clinics have received 2,008,083 patients, while 28,040,237 people have benefited from consultation services by calling ministry representatives on 937.

On Thursday, the Kingdom reported five new coronavirus-related deaths, lifting the toll since the pandemic began to 6,480.

A total of 356 new cases were reported, raising the number of those infected to 376,377. There are 2,574 active cases, with 473 in a critical condition.

“We are monitoring fluctuations in regions of the Kingdom. Some have seen an increase in cases while others have fewer cases. This shows we are not at a completely stable state yet. We must exert more efforts to feel at ease,” Al-Abd Al-Aly said.

According to the ministry, 180 of the newly recorded cases were in the Riyadh region, 80 in the Eastern Province, 37 in Makkah and 13 in Qassim. The rest of the regions reported cases in single figures.

A total of 308 recoveries brought the overall number in the Kingdom to 367,323.

Testing on 45,608 people lifted the overall number of conducted PCR tests to 13,509,412.

SDRPY launches locust control project in Yemen

Updated 25 February 2021

SDRPY launches locust control project in Yemen

  • The aim of the project is to protect vegetation and agricultural crops

ADEN: The Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen (SDRPY) has launched the desert locust control project in Yemen in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Yemeni Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.

The aim of the project is to protect vegetation and agricultural crops, and contain the damage that would be caused by desert locusts in Yemen.

SDRPY has provided logistical support to the project including five four-wheel drive vehicles, 100 backpack sprayers, 20 tons of pesticides, five spraying protective suits, 10 emergency bags, five pesticide spray devices for vehicles with a total capacity of 600 liters, five generators, and 10 tents.

In addition, SDRPY will work on transmitting expertise and knowledge to Yemeni cadres in the agricultural sector. These groups will look to protect vegetation from diseases in collaboration with the Yemeni government, local authorities, and specialized international agencies.

The project’s agricultural benefits are expected to have positive repercussions on living and economic conditions in Yemen.

SDRPY’s project is aiming to strengthen food security and protect agricultural production to achieve greater self-sufficiency in Yemen.


KSrelief, UNHCR chiefs discuss humanitarian efforts

Updated 25 February 2021

KSrelief, UNHCR chiefs discuss humanitarian efforts

RIYADH: Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), met with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi virtually on Thursday.

Al-Rabeeah reviewed KSrelief’s aid and humanitarian efforts to stricken countries all over the world, especially Yemen, and the Kingdom’s efforts towards Yemeni and Syrian refugees and the Rohingya minority in Bangladesh, as well as the joint executive programs signed by KSrelief and the UNHCR.

The meeting covered topics of common interest, their strategic partnership, the close relations between the two sides and ways to enhance it.

They also discussed mutual future programs and projects to serve refugees around the world.