The number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder is rising. In the 1970s and 1980s, about one out of every 2,000 children had autism. Today, the United States Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that one in 59 children in the U.S. has ASD, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, research in 2014 revealed that the rate of autism in Beirut and Mount Lebanon has risen to one in 67.
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child's ability to communicate and interact with others.
Autism significantly affects verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction that adversely affects the child’s educational performance. It may also cause restricted repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities.
There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, however, they communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.
The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of support and assistance in their daily lives, while others may need less support.
As Lebanon lacks effective treatments and educational systems to support children with autism, and as many schools have rejected autistic children and prevent them from their rightful right for education, a couple stood out and created a glimpse of hope for autistic people in Lebanon.
In 2012, Saritta Trad and Bachir Sarkis learned their son Ricky, then 2 years 9 months, was on the Autism Spectrum. To provide their son with the most effective treatment for Autism, they separated their family and moved him to the USA to receive services based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Since beginning services, Ricky has made great strides and recently began speaking; a huge success for the entire family!
While Ricky continues to make progress, it is difficult for the family to live in separate countries. In wanting to reunite their family, Saritta and Bachir have realized the need in Lebanon for world-class services for children with Autism.
Saritta and Bachir founded 123 Autism School in Dbayeh to provide not only their child but the entire community with the opportunity to receive pertinent services that can help children with autism, or with other developmental disabilities, reach their greatest potential.
Working in collaboration with the Sarkis family, the NECC -which is the global leader in providing effective, evidence-based educational services to children with autism- will run the management of the school to provide quality services to Lebanese children in the community.
In the school, children will receive Special Education services, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, Occupational Therapy (OT), and Speech and Language Therapy (SLP).
As the classes will start next month (September 2019), the school seeks to be a safe space that feels like home for children with Autism.