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.