Imagine having a child with autism and not even knowing what autism is or what to do about it? Many kids with autism in developing countries aren't allowed in school, are misunderstood, and are often ostracized by their community. Our goal is to provide these communities w/ a greater understanding of autism and ways to manage its effects by providing outreach, education, and support. This includes evidence based trainings to organizations in need.
It's hard to imagine a world where people on the streets, those in government and those in charge of education don't have any idea what autism is. While we still have a long way to go in the United States in insurance reimbursement, appropriate educational settings and services and increasing awareness, I have never met anyone who didn't even know what the disorder was. That wasn't the case during a trip to Nepal that I made with Knowledge for People this summer. People on the streets would ask why we were visiting the country and have no clue when we tried to explain autism to them. Parents look for professional help and get suggestions like "stop feeding him fish and he'll stop flapping like one". Parents tend to keep their kids indoors because of the stares and comments that come from a lack of awareness of the disorder. They had no one to turn to for help...at least until Autism Care Nepal formed in 2008.
Since that time the small group of dedicated parents have developed a resource center and are offering ever increasing support and programming for the children and their families. The leadership there has aquired any resource they could get their hands on and attended every trainning they could to learn to help themselves and help other families in Nepal. They've made remarkable progress over the past 3 years!
The summer of 2011 was the second trip that Knowledge for People made to Nepal and we had a team of 10 amazing instructors! The participants were broken into 3 groups of learners. The first two groups rotated in 2 day trainings on applied behavior analysis, increasing social motivation, sensory and fine motor issues, communication training and the use of visual supports. The 3rd group, people who had considerable training already, worked with me to learn to assess and plan programs for 3 model children using the VB-Mapp (generously donated by Barbara Esch).
By the end of the 2 weeks, parents had learned how to play with, engage with, help regulate and teach their children with Autism. The advanced team had the tools to assess and make appropriate programming recommendations for new children coming in and many new friends were made.
While the rest of the team was training at ACN, Nikki Closser, the executive director and Renee Poole, the programs coordinator at Knowledge for People traveled around the country raising awareness. They met with school personnel, principals, education boards and government officials to raise awareness and advocate for services for the children.
We did good work and it was very rewarding. I think Lizzie summed it up best when she said the parents got to work with professionals who loved their children, not in spite of their autism but because of it. It was gift for all of us!
If you're interested in supporting international autism services, either financially, by sharing your gifts or if you are a country in need of support, please contact Nikki Closser at Knowledge for People for further information.