Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dinner With the President & Positive Feedback...

Our team has been warmly welcomed in the Maldives. We have been treated with the utmost care and respect and we feel so grateful to be here! Just when we thought we couldn't feel more honored, we were invited to have dinner with the President at the presidential palace. We were informed that we are the first group that has been brought inside the palace by the current president! We truly felt very special. We spoke for a long while with the President and his wife, Madame Ilham, about the mission of Knowledge for People and how our training here is helping their country.

The following day we continued our training. The 35 teachers and 20 parents have been working so hard with us. Eight days of training for 6 hours each day is not easy to go through and they have been engaged the entire time. Some of our team members commented that this group has learned the information quicker than any other group of adults who have gone through the training. We are so proud of our Maldivian friends!

Our training is proving to be extremely meaningful. We have received an incredible amount of positive feedback. In fact, one of the parents went home after a day of training and applied a strategy with her son that she learned from Lizzy. She said it was like a miracle! Her son responded right away :) She said that the training she is receiving from our Knowledge for People team has taken away much of the stress that she has been feeling since her son was born 7 years ago. Hearing things like this makes all of our hard work very worth it!!

In addition to receiving positive feedback from parents, we have found that training the teachers is going to be helping many, many children. Not only will it be benefiting the students who have autism, but also their classmates and the teachers themselves! One teacher reported that she has a new student coming to her class soon who has autism. She said she would have had no idea how to help him to learn had she not had these trainings. We have heard from some of the parents who we worked with at the Maldives Autism Association (MAA) that their children get sent home from school every single day because the teachers have not been trained about autism. That is the thing with autism. Children with autism CAN learn, but they learn differently from the rest of us. They must be taught in a specific way in order to see the most possible progress. It's not anyone's fault if they don't know how to teach a child with autism...they just need to be trained!

We worked with 25 children and their parents at MAA. All of these children are on the waiting list and currently receive NO services. There aren't any other services available in the Maldives and the MAA is at maximum capacity serving 30 children currently with 2 sessions--one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We just found out that the waiting list went from 34 families to 54 just since we arrived 2 weeks ago! They need more space and are hoping to receive a piece of land from the government in order to build a proper center. They are also in desperate need of more funding.

Today is our last training day. We are really going to miss our new friends! We will be doing Skype sessions to follow up on training, but it won't be the same as being with them in person :( We are confident that they will implement the knowledge they learned efficiently and effectively. We are already so excited to come back next year!!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Training Continues...

After the 2 day weekend break, we are back in work mode! Yesterday was another successful training day the Program Supervisors at the Maldives Autism Association continue their advanced training focusing on autism diagnostic assessment, program planning, evaluation, and consultation. They are eager to learn and are picking it up very quickly!

There is a waiting list of 35 families at the Maldives Autism Association and many of the children (and their parents) are not receiving any services at all. As a result, we are doing educational consultations with those parents. Yesterday, Nicole and Heather did a consultation with a mother and her 8-year-old son. The mother told them that she has been taking her son to India every 6 months for 10 days each time to try to learn how to become his service provider. She said that she learned more from Heather and Nicole in two hours than she has ever learned during her trips to India. We are very relieved that the session was so beneficial to her! At the same time, we are sad that she has gone so long without this valuable information for her child...and that was just a sliver of what she could learn! We believe that the people teaching her in India are truly doing the best they can, but this is another example of how there is such a great need for training programs like Knowledge for People provides. We are confident that at the end of our training, the Maldives Autism Association will be able to provide this knowledge to current and future families who they serve!

Tomorrow, Young and I will be visiting a school in which they have 3 classrooms for children who have special needs. In addition, we have been invited to have dinner at the home of the president of the Maldive's! We are very excited, to say the least :)


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Photos from training day 3...

The first photo is some of our team with Madame Ilham Hussain, the president's wife. She and Zila (in the 2nd photo) started the Maldives Autism Association. The 3rd photo is our team during our morning commute!

Friday, June 29, 2012

The past 3 days of training has been incredible. Our morning commute consists of a 20 minute speed boat ride, which definitely beats my commute back home! We started the first training day with a presentation that was an introduction to Knowledge for People and to autism in general. After the intro, participants broke up into 2 groups--a group of all parents of children who have autism and a group of teachers and other professionals.

The first session for the parents focused on stress management and was lead by Liz and Young. Several months ago, we surveyed the parents to find out what training they were hoping to receive from us. One of the top priorities, in addition to learning about different ways to help their child, was how to deal with the stress that comes with having a child who has autism. At first, the parents were reluctant to share their story about their child and their experience with autism so far. As the session progressed, more and more parents opened up and shared what they are going through. It was very moving. We learned that it is not common at all in their culture to talk about "feelings" or talk about what they are going through. We found that most parents had a very difficult time getting a diagnosis and many of them ended up going to India or Sri Lanka to finally hear the word autism. They talked about the grief they feel. They talked about needing more support from their family and their community. They talked about hope. They seemed excited about starting a support group amongst themselves--something that doesn't exist in the Maldives.

The sessions while we are here consist of advanced training of evidence based therapies for the teachers at the Maldives Autism Association (MAA), training for teachers and professionals from all around the Maldives, diagnostic training for doctors and psychiatrists, and one-on-one consultations for parents who have their child on the waiting list for MAA (there are 30+ families on the list!). Some of these families have never received any type of service or consultation and they were grateful for the information we provided them.

One of the most important pieces to our training, which will help to ensure sustainability, is the advanced training of the teachers at the Maldives Autism Association. Tracy and Liz provided intense evaluation training and the teachers definitely demonstrated a high level of understanding! We were amazed at how quickly they learned the information and we have no doubt they will be proficient at it in no time.

That's all for now. We have a 2 day break since their weekend is Friday and Saturday and we are taking the time to rejuvenate on the beach :)