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 :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Visiting a Local Island

Wow, it has been a great two days! The Maldives is very tourist driven and most of the islands that are open to tourists are filled with resorts. This is not the Maldives we wanted to see. We instead wanted to see the local community and learn more about the culture here. When providing training in a country with a culture different from ours, it is important to understand as much as possible and to be culturally sensitive. The amazing ladies at the Maldives Association arranged for a trip to a local island for our team. We took an hour long boat ride to and island called Hurra. Many of the people living on Hurra were born and raised there and it is common for the entire family (including aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents) to live under one roof.

We were welcomed into the homes of the locals and they were extremely hospitable. They even carved out coconuts with fresh coconut water for each of us! After visiting some homes, we toured the only school on the island. We were very impressed! There were signs everywhere encouraging Character Education and the classrooms were very inviting and set up well. We learned that while there are not special services for children who have a disability, they teach children at their ability level. We then headed to a home where the children have Quran studies and an adorable 5-year-old boy read us a passage. He was so cute and proud!

The island has a very peaceful feeling to it and we were very thankful to have visited. We really enjoyed talking with the parents of children and interacting with the kids themselves. We finally headed back to Bandos, where we are staying, and enjoyed the incredible views of the Indian Ocean, surfers, huge manta rays, and other gorgeous island. What a great day :)

I will (or one of the other team members) will blog soon about our first day of training!

Monday, June 25, 2012

KfP Has Arrived in the Maldives!

The team has all arrived! Liz and Tracy visited the Maldives Autism Association on Sunday to see what wonderful work they are already doing. We spent the day yesterday visiting a local island to learn about the culture in the Maldives and build our team. We start our training today! Watch for a more detailed blog entry later today :)