Put Children First
By happy coincidence this blog has a namesake in India, Action For Autism is the leading autism organization in India and possibly in the whole of South East Asia. Some autism organizations in the more affluent West could learn a lot from their attitude. Take this from their home page:
A society that views the interdependence of people of every ability as valuable and enriching and seeks to provide equal opportunities for all.
To facilitate a barrier free environment; to empower families of persons with autism, and to act as a catalyst for change that will enable persons with autism to live as fully participating members of the community.
Or their explanation of why they use the puzzle piece logo.
Many autism organizations have adopted the logo of the puzzle piece to symbolize how it appears that one piece of the autism puzzle is missing, and how autism itself is a confusing and puzzling disability.
We, too, have found this an appropriate analogy. However, as an organization we do not view having a child with autism to be a tragic or unfortunate situation for either the parents or the child. It IS a difficult situation to live with, like many difficult situations in life, and for families in India, this difficulty is magnified by the poverty of services available. Despite this, we prefer to send a more encouraging message to people about autism, and therefore, the little boy in our puzzle piece is not someone who is looking downwards or weeping, but is someone who is smiling and connecting with those around him. Also, we show him partially emerging from the puzzle to represent that all people with autism can improve and grow to some extent.
Unfortunately, they struggle to find the resources to match their aspirations. The do operate a school with a delightful philosophy.
Given proper intervention, all people with autism can improve. Open Door provides a happy, stress-free learning environment where the child is not judged or ‘pushed’ to perform … The qualifications we look for in our potential teachers are open mindedness, a willingness to receive and give feedback with other teachers, and a love and respect for children … we work with the child’s interests and emerging skills, rather than their deficits.
This is good. But it is only one school, the only school in India where teachers have autism specific training. Here is a summary last year’s achievements
- 63 children came to AFA for diagnosis and assessment.
- 62 children attended The “Open Door” School Programmes
- 7 young adults trained at Aadhaar, the Vocational Training Centre
- More than 300 families turned to AFA for counseling, either face-to-face, by phone or correspondence.
- 4 therapists completed AFA’s year- long training course in Autism
- AFA employed 18 members of staff as well as numerous, regular volunteers
So there you have it. A national autism society with a sound philosophy, who are putting children first and achieving great things on as limited budget. They are also ambitious. Action for Autism are planning to raise $379,000 to build and equip a new National Centre. I urge everyone to visit their web site to learn more about their work and to give them whatever financial assistance you can afford.
One person who could afford to help is J.B. Handley, the founder of Generation Rescue who has just launched a new organization, Put Children First with a full page ad in USA Today. This is the fourth full page ad in his campaign to persuade the USA that there is an autism epidemic caused by the mercury in vaccines. At around $100,000 an ad this campaign has done nothing to help a single child and, arguably, has been the cause of harm to children whose parents have been taken in by his campaign and subjected their children to unnecessary and potentially dangerous chelation therapy.
If he had given the money to Action for Autism’s Buy A Brick Program that would have put a lot of children first.
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