The Center was established in 1414 H – 1993. It was the first of its type in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was ranked as the best Arab center that provides services in a sound scientific methodology. This has been achieved with the help of international experts specialized in the field of autism .
The Center introduced the first Arab organized curriculum based on sound science and based on the fundamentals of education due to its expertise in training. The Center provided all distinguished programs for the specialists and autistic children’s families. Through this, the Center made the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the leading and first country in the region that cares and faces this difficult disorder. In addition, the Kingdom sheds light on the autism disorder, its effect, and the way of handling it on the level of cases, families, and community.
The Center has achieved a clear excellence since its inception as Friends' Classroom program in 1413 H in response to the appeal of a group of mothers. The Kuwaiti Dr. Samira Abdel Latif Al-Saad exerted individual efforts while during her stay in Jeddah in 1412 H. She was the only specialist in this field at that time. She volunteered to rehabilitate four autistic children in her house. This helped those children and their families. She also trained a group of mothers on the ideal method to work with their children.
However, these individual efforts required institutional support. Faisaliah Society provided such support. It was the first association to provide this service and direct the media towards autism. The Society started to prepare the autism program in its headquarters under the name (Friends' Classroom). This was the first official institutional program specified for autistic children in The Arab Gulf Countries . The Committee of Studies and Research in Faisaliah Society , headed by the board member Ms. Laila Zalimi, supervised and administered the program. In addition, Dr. Samira Abdel Latif Al-Saad supervised the training of the first group and educational programs for one full year till she moved to Kuwait.
Friends' Classroom (Establishment and Objectives):
The friends' Classroom was inaugurated in the headquarters of Faisaliah Society and started to receive children on Sunday 23 Zul Hija 1413 H. The classroom was a program to educate and rehabilitate autistic children. Six autistic children were enrolled and supervised by two teachers whose aim was to achieve the following objectives:
- Social rehabilitation of children by improving their skills of communicating with others.
- Train children to be independent and to improve their personalities.
- Teach children reading, writing and sciences according to their abilities.
- Try to discover the talents of each child, develop them, and train him on hobbies to occupy his leisure time
- Assist children to modify their undesired behaviors.
A specialized training course was planned, prepared, implemented and aimied at receiving further children following year, 1415 H. Five teachers with University degrees, were selected as well as teacher assistants with secondary school diploma.
The course started in Rabie Al Thani 1414 H and lasted for one academic year until 1415 H. There were theoretical and practical lectures on autism given by Dr. Samira Al-Saad. In addition, there were lectures given by physicians, professors, and faculty members from King Saud University in the Department of Psychology and Special Education.
Because it is important to benefit from world expertise in the autism field, Faisaliah Society hosted Professor Dr. Gary Mesibov, Division Teach program manager from The University of North Carolina in the United States of America. It is the most successful program worldwide that supports and assesses the experiment of friends' Classroom . It also provided an integrated educational program.
Phases of Developing Jeddah Autism Center
Faisaliah Society established the Friends' Classroom program on a strong scientific basis. It provided manpower including administrators, supervisors and teachers after the Studies and Researches Committee prepared the program of educational treatment for autistic children, inaugurated three classrooms for autistic children, and implemented the training program for two years. This training program contributed to training the first and second groups so that the total number of teachers after graduation was 17 teachers and teacher assistants. The number of children enrolled in the classes soared to 20 children (male and female) by the end of 1415 H.
After hosting Dr. Gary Mesibov and his assistant Ms. Sloan Burgess from 18 to 22 Zul Hija 1414 H to assess the Friends' Classroom program and introduce an integrated educational program, it was necessary to establish an independent center.
Faisaliah Society decided to establish an integrated services independent center. It started to set the administrative and technical organization to establish the Center in a separate building. The Center was established in Ramadan in 1415 H in a building offered as endowment from Eng. Abdul Aziz Kamel (may Allah have mercy upon him) in Al Salama District in Jeddah.
Jeddah Autism Center– Al Salama District in 1416 H – 1996
After completing the equipment and furnishing the headquarters as an autism specialized center, the first academic year commenced in 1416-1417 H. It was established on proper scientific basis and became a distinctive successful experiment to be proud of. The success of this experiment made several bodies inside the Kingdom contact the Center to benefit from its expertise and adopt the educational program in opening autism centers in Riyadh, Dhahran and Al-Jubail Industrial City.
The objectives of the Center were amended to cope with the development achieved by the Society within two years to be in conformity with the universal studies and researches in this field. The Society also cooperated with specialized universal bodies to assist in providing administrative and technical support, the most important of which are:
- Hezli Group from the United Kingdom which assessed the prepared study program. The Society benefited from this assessment in consolidating the administrative and technical bases for Jeddah Autism Center
- On Rajab 24th 1417 H corresponding to December 5th 1996, the Center sought the help of the Belgian expert Dr. Theo Peters, expert Hilde De Clercq and a group of consultants from Opleidingscentrum Autisme (OCA), a Belgian autism center
- Mrs. Kathleen De Weerdt
- Mr. Jos Valkenbor
- Mr. Steven De Grieck
This was to provide training courses for two weeks(first week theory , second week practicum ).This training was called (Educational Treatment for Autistic Children). They assessed the educational program for Jeddah Autism Center, and reviewed training programs and plans for teachers and specialists of the Center. This cooperation is considered an extension to what the Society had started in supporting the educational program, especially rehabilitation and practical training programs.
- From 21-25 of Shawal in 1417 H corresponding to 1-5 March in 1997, cooperation was made with the British consultant Barbra Blyth and Valerie Cumine. Each one of them assessed the working team, provided advice and gave lectures for the new trainees for five days.
- On 29/11/1418 H corresponding to 27/03/1998, Dr. Barbra Blyth revised and developed the administrative and technical system of the Center in conjunction with the administrative and technical team in Jeddah Autism Center through convening several meetings. Mothers participated in the plans related to children and issues related to cooperation between the Center and home , were discussed. She delivered the organizational plan, job descriptions , and administrative and technical procedures. She also set the working system and internal by-laws for the Center as per universal operational standards.
- On 9th Rajab 1424 H corresponding to 6th September 2003 G, Faisaliah Society signed the joint cooperation agreement between Jeddah Autism Center and Kuwait Autism Center to implement a joint training program in order to achieve the two Centers’ joint objectives and unify joint efforts in the fields of autism and exchange of expertise and programs. In the framework of the agreement, Dr. Samira Abdel Larif Al-Saad revised the educational program and followed up the level of students , individual plans and the achievement of objectives, together with setting a working plan for application and continuous revision. In addition to preparing the assessment program related to teachers working inside classrooms, selection of new supervisors to match the organizational changes which contribute to improvement of the performance and level of services provided for students of the Center and families through:
- Following up students’ level through individual plans, achievement of objectives, and setting practical plan for application.
- Assessing and training of teachers on the aspects that require the teams’ assistance to follow up.
- Lectures or courses for parents.
- Exchanging visits, publications and cooperation in preparing the training courses, educational duties and activities.
- In 1424 H – 2003 G, the systems and programs provided by the Center were amended and revised. This was due to studies and accumulated expertise the Center acquired. It issued the statute and comprehensive educational program guide to be a reference and basis for the establishment of other centers and to proceed according to correct scientific methodology.
Jeddah Autism Center – Al Shati District in 1426 H – 2005 G:
With following up the continuous development and improvement of Jeddah Autism Center, the Society management looked for a new headquarters that would add many new services and facilities that would enable the Center to provide all potentials required for the educational, sport, recreational environment suitable for autistic individuals. This expansion also helped to establish the early intervention unit for children from 3 years old in response to the improvement of these children from early intervention .
With the generous support and charitable aid from His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, the Society purchased the new headquarters whose total area is 1800 square meter estimated at 4.5 million SR. Her Royal Highness Princess Madawy Bint Metieb Bin Abdul Aziz has contributed to providing the fund required for expansion by collecting many donations from their royal highnesses and charitable persons. The Supreme Women Committee supported the Center with 3 million SR assigned for furniture and equipment. This amount was taken from the value of the charitable auction organized under the sponsorship of His Royal Highness Prince of Mecca Province, Prince Abdul Majid Bin Abdul Aziz “May Allah have mercy upon him”. In addition, businessmen in Jeddah greatly supported several charitable projects including Jeddah Autism Center.
On 10th Shawal 1426 H corresponding to 12th November 2005 G, the official moving to the new Center was made and students were received in the new headquarters.
On 1428 H – 2007 G, Faisaliah Society’s General Director, Ms. Fawzia Abdul Rahman Al Tasan, and General Deputy Director for development and follow up, Ms. Naziha Mohammed Othman prepared Jeddah Autism Center’s internal by-laws. Then both Ms. Khairia Mohammed Nour Rahimi, who was a board member, an administrative committee member, and a senior administrative supervisor in the educational supervision department office, and Ms. Mani Refaat “May Allah have mercy upon her”, who was specialized in school administrative supervision for girls educational supervision department in Ministry of Education, reviewed all regulations, systems, policies, and job descriptions. They also made the final amendments and review, approved by the board of directors, to conform to the Society’s statutes.