First Middle East trip forges new partnerships in countries seeking response to autism “tsunami”
Randolph, Mass. — The National Autism Center (NAC) at May Institute has been selected to participate in the U.S. State Department’s Speaker Program, and was subsequently invited to provide training and consultation in applied behavior analysis and autism spectrum disorder in both Oman and Dubai. The Speaker Program is managed by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, which organizes traveling and electronic events for American experts to engage with foreign audiences worldwide.
May Institute and its National Autism Center respond to national and global demand for a broad range of needs and services. These include: the dissemination of best practices in applied behavior analysis treatment of autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities; training in applied behavior analysis; the start-up and operation of schools and programs for autism; and Positive Behavioral Support technical assistance. Recent inquiries and partnerships have included organizations from Abu Dhabi, Qatar, China, Singapore, and South Korea.
Dr. Ralph Sperry, who holds a joint appointment as Chief Operating Officer for both May Institute and NAC, and Dr. Robert Putnam, a member of May Institute’s executive leadership team, and Senior Vice President of Research and Consultation for NAC, recently returned from a trip to Oman that was sponsored by the Omani Ministry of Social Development. They delivered a four-day workshop on autism treatment in Muscat, the capital of Oman and the seat of government.
“The workshop was extraordinarily well received by an audience of over 150 Ministry officials, educators, doctors, parents, and therapists,” said Daniel Durazo, Omani Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Muscat. Omani officials expressed deep gratitude for this workshop as they strive to meet the demand for services for what they called “a tsunami” of potential confirmed autism diagnoses.
Drs. Putnam and Sperry provided information about the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), considered the “gold standard” assessment tool to evaluate the communication, social interaction, and play patterns of children suspected of having autism. They also shared results of NAC’s National Standards Project, including information about the 14 Established Interventions for children and adolescents that have the most research support, produce beneficial outcomes, and are known to be effective. By combining the results of Phase
1 and Phase 2 of the National Standards Project, NAC has produced the largest compilation of studies ever reviewed.
At the request of the U.S. Embassy and Omani officials, Drs. Sperry and Putnam also visited Muscat’s Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities, the Oman Autism Association, and the Early Intervention Center.
“The government of Oman extended its thanks to the U.S. State Department and May Institute for the assistance provided to meet the needs of children with autism in Oman,” said Dr. Ralph Sperry. “They have invited us to join them in an ongoing collaboration in Oman to assist in the development of a strategic plan for the country to address this issue. The intention is to develop a school and an Autism Center of Excellence as part of the plan. We shall be returning to Oman in January to begin this collaboration.”
The findings from the National Standards Project concluded that there is more empirical support than ever before for interventions that are behaviorally based. Hundreds of scientific studies have shown that applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the most effective method to teach children and adolescents with autism and other developmental disabilities. ABA has been endorsed by the National Institutes of Health and the Association for Science in Autism Treatment and has been identified by the Surgeon General of the United States as the most effective way to treat autism. May Institute is one of the leading providers of applied behavior analysis services in the U.S.