My name is Asma Al-Saleh and I am passionate about nature and the environment — I try to plant a tree any chance that I get.
I was born into a family that valued education more than anything else.
My parents did everything possible to ensure that my four siblings and I could follow our passions and chosen fields.
Being a middle child in a Saudi family, I had to negotiate to get what I wanted, and that not only made me a goal-getting person but also developed my leadership skills.
My parents have always encouraged me and my siblings to pursue our education in any field that we desired. As a young adult, I wanted to be a pediatric surgeon. However, when I first discovered the field of autism, I was incredibly intrigued and fascinated by it as a new mysterious and undiscovered science. When I first told my family about my decision to study autism, they supported me to get into this field and even encouraged me to acquire my master’s degree.
Early on, from elementary to high school, I was an excellent student and managed to graduate with a high score, which gave me many options to consider in regard to college applications.
Out of my sheer love for children and a curiosity about autism, majoring in special education at King Saud University (KSU) was the obvious choice.
January 2011 marked both my graduation from KSU and the beginning of my career as an autism specialist at the Center for Autism Research (CFAR) at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSH&RC) in Riyadh.
I was fortunate to be one of the first CFAR appointments and I helped to build the team and develop its overall vision and mission.
I worked with a multidisciplinary team to conduct assessments, diagnoses and interventions, and as an aspiring autism specialist I focused on expanding my knowledge and cultivating experiences in the field.
This led me to obtain certification in Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2) and Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), both considered to be the gold standard in diagnostic evaluations for autism.
Learning is a continuous process, especially in a field where new methods and tools are being discovered and updated all the time.
This made me the first Saudi research-reliable therapist in ADOS-2, in addition to becoming a certified therapist in the Early Start Denver Model (a behavioral therapy for autistic children aged between 12 and 48 months).
In 2016, I was fortunate to embark on yet another wonderful and challenging journey. I decided to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Learning is a continuous process, especially in a field where new methods and tools are being discovered and updated all the time.
On a personal note, for someone who appreciates strong family ties, having to live abroad without my family was extremely difficult.
By 2017, after writing a thesis titled “Quality of Life Among Mothers of ASD Children in Saudi Arabia,” I obtained my master’s degree in psychological studies. I was appointed as a senior autism specialist and scientific project supervisor on my return to KFSH&RC.
I later moved from KFSH&RC and am currently working as a clinical supervisor in the applied behavior analysis department at the Autism Center of Excellence.
As a short-term plan, I am working on obtaining the board certification in applied behavior analysis (ABA). In the long run, I hope to be one of those who make an eminent contribution in both the autism and applied behavior analysis fields.
Aside from an incredibly busy career, I strive to be fit and ensure that I do a workout at least three times a week. I have also taken up gardening as a hobby, which has helped to enhance my well-being.
When I reflect on my life, I can attribute all my successes to the unconditional love and support of my family.