Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Education is kind of a cure. You will at least know how to face the problem" - teacher from a Nepali college


It has been a very successful few days! Training has been going great as the parents and other participants at Autism Care Nepal continue to drink in all of the information they are being given so they can better the lives of their children and of other children. They are so enthusiastic about learning and are so excited to use the strategies and techniques with the kids! Tracy continues to work with an advanced group teaching them VB-MAPP and other important evaluation and communication tools. Christine has been working with the participants to help them understand the sensory system and how occupational therapy can assist children who have autism. There is an occupational therapist from India, Roshan, who she has been working closely with. There are no OT's in Nepal, so Autism Care Nepal has hired him to assist with the children. Heather and Selene have been presenting and training in the area of communication, Liz and Lizzy have been conducting trainings surrounding ABA/Floortime, and Beth and Valorie continue to teach the participants how to set up the center using the TEACCH model. Brayden, our photographer, has been documenting the program for us (these aren't his photos, these are just some we took with a point and shoot...his photos will come later :).

The focus for Renee and I has been on helping to educate the community about autism. Since there is little known about autism, and most people have never even heard of it, the children are often ostracized from the community. Our hope is that with better understanding of the disorder, there will be more acceptance of the children and their family. We also hope to make parents who have a child with autism (and also teachers) aware of Autism Care Nepal and the services they offer. Renee and I had an autism presentation scheduled on Tuesday in a rural village called Nangkhel, but Renee was too ill to go so Christine joined me. Meeakshi, a woman who works at Divyaankur Child Organization in Nepal, picked us up for 40 minute taxi ride. After getting out of the taxi we had to hike up a not-quite-finished (the only road leading to the village) road for an hour. It was a beautiful walk! Some of the children in the villages do the one hour hike every day back and forth for school. At one point, there were 4 or 5 cows running straight for us and behind them was an itty bitty little boy with his herding stick. Meenakshi asked him why he wasn’t on his way to school and he said he had to finish his work first. American kids need to stop complaining about their chores! We finally made it to the school and we were very impressed. They utilize their resources very efficiently and effectively. We attended the monthly parent meeting and the topic was weather or not they should hit their children. It was in all Nepali, so we didn’t know what they were saying most of the time. After their discussion I was introduced and we had a dialogue about autism. They asked great questions and listened intently. This was the first time any of them had heard the word autism, yet there are many children who have it at least in nearby towns. We then observed some of the classrooms and it was really fun to watch.

Yesterday, Renee and I conducted an autism presentation at the Divyaankur Child Organization. The audience included employees of Divyaankur Child, teachers from a local university, other teachers, a nutritionist, and a child psychologist. They are all strong advocates for children who have disabilities and they were very interested in learning about autism, because they said that autism is a new word in Nepal. They are also hopeful that more and more people will begin to understand autism and plan to spread the word. One participant said, "Because children with autism don't look physically disabled, they are punished as normal children, so we need to educate parents and teachers". Parents are often blamed for their child having autism. One person told us that it is widely believed that the parents and/or children are being punished from something that occurred in a past life.

We have two more presentations scheduled for next week. One is to Nepali government officials, which we think is crucial for helping Autism Care Nepal (the only center in Nepal assisting children with autism) to gain support and to be recognized by the government. Autism Care Nepal is an NGO and, as a result, is not recognized by the government. Their hope is to become partners and have a positive relationship with the government, but to continue as an NGO. The second presentation we have scheduled will be for 20-25 teachers.

I will post more later! Thanks for reading :)

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