Every year since 2008, World Autism Awareness Day has been observed on 2 April by UN member states. In French-speaking Belgium, there are four autism reference centres and, unlike elsewhere in the country, a personalised reception service for patients.
Two of these centres are in Wallonia (the Centre de Ressources Autisme du CHU de Liège – CRAL – and the Service Universitaire Spécialisé pour Personnes avec Autisme de Mons – SUSA) and two in Brussels, at the Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc and the Hôpital Universitaire des Enfants Reine Fabiola.
But one of the challenges faced by people with autism is that they often have other conditions, which require multidisciplinary follow-up.
This is why a new specialised reception centre is planned for Belgium. It will be created within the Welcome service, on the Citadelle site of the Liège CHR, in collaboration with the CRAL and the SUSA Foundation. “Welcome wants to adapt the care of autistic patients to offer them a personalised reception adapted to their condition”, explains the head of the service, Aysel Uzun. “Doctors, nurses, but also reception staff, security guards and all staff in contact with patients receive specific training.”
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The premises of the new autism service are also adapted to be pleasing for people with autism and appointments with the various specialists are organised so that they can be made on the same day, in order to provide the best possible experience for visitors. Since September 2022, 85 autistic patients have been cared for by the welcome service, amounting to almost 400 consultations in seven months.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by deficits in communication and social interaction. In Belgium, some 80,000 people are thought to be affected and around 850 new cases are detected each year.