Financial constraints have made it very difficult, if not impossible, for the staff of the Society for the Welfare of Autistic Children (SWAC) to travel outside of Bangladesh to obtain autism training and to learn best practices for educating autistic children. Because of this, in 2004 the Executive Board of SWAC organized a workshop in Bangladesh aimed at helping teachers, parents, and other stakeholders develop their knowledge and skills in the field of autism. It was very expensive for SWAC to organize such a workshop.
When the Prerona Project began in 2007, SWAC management and teachers began to receive practical autism training in Bangladesh from Finnish autism experts. Since then, these experts have been conducting hands-on autism trainings on a regular basis for the teachers and parents of SWAC. These workshops and practical training programs have given us the opportunity to compare our activities with that of autism organizations in developed countries.
Over time, with the Finnish educational team’s support, we began to feel more confident in our own ability to train our teachers at SWAC and we felt that we no longer needed to hire outside experts from abroad. Through those training programs, SWAC teachers developed many skills including how to create structured schedules and environments, how to use techniques such as visualization and PECS, and how to develop IEPs according to the needs of children and adults with autism. At the moment, SWAC is playing a significant role in changing attitudes about autism through out the country.
In 2009, through support of the Prerona Project, I, along with two teachers, had the opportunity to receive hands-on training in Finland. Later in October 2011, along with my Finnish counterpart, I also visited Action for Autism (AFA) in India.
AFA is the pioneer autism organization in India which has been around for about 20 years. I was keenly interested in learning about AFA’s activities, structure, teaching style, etc. as their culture is very similar to ours. When I reached AFA, I felt proud to compare our structure with AFA's structure as it seemed that our programs were quite similar.
Although SWAC had clearly been successful in developing the skills of teachers and parents in Bangladesh, it had not previously been possible to accurately measure the quality of our programs. Our Finland and AFA visits provided us with the opportunity to accurately measure the quality of our programs.
Educational materials for children and adults with autism are not readily available in Bangladesh. Therefore, we must buy foreign ready-made toys and other educational materials which are very expensive. From the outset of the project, autism experts and well-wishers from Finland urged us to use our local resources and recycled materials to create our own educational materials. The AFA visit has made me much more aware of the inevitability of using recycled materials as AFA is also using local, inexpensive recycled materials. We have many well-trained teachers and access to different kinds of recycled materials. We recognize that we should use those recycled materials to further develop the knowledge and skills of our students and teachers. Teachers must be creative in figuring out how best to develop educational materials using local recycled materials.
I hope that I will be able to apply my training to enable children and adults with autism in Bangladesh to develop their skills and help them to live meaningful lives in our mainstream society.
The views expressed in this story are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.